President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

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Advancing Equality in Your Community – What’s Your Story?

The following comes from HRC Online Content Manager Dan Rafter:

The past few years have seen tremendous progress in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. We ended 2010 with President Obama signing into law legislation that will once and for all end the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the nation’s military. We saw the power of support in communities across America for LGBT equality – from those who rallied around the nation’s youth to address bullying, to the outrage directed at anti-gay bigots like Clint McCance. And just over a year ago, we saw the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act become law.

While sweeping federal victories are important, it’s often the stories from within your own community that are most powerful and best illustrate the tireless efforts of those working to advance equality. HRC members played an instrumental role in pushing for marriage equality in Washington, DC and New York; and worked to advance legislation for civil unions in Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois. You spoke out to support non-discrimination ordinances in places like Bowling Green, OH, Howard County, MD, Missoula, MT, Norman, OK and Omaha, NE. You participated in gender identity and faith education and advocacy workshops in states including California, New Jersey and Virginia. And you mobilized support across the country for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” sending over 625,000 pro-repeal emails and 50,000 handwritten notes to Congress.

The work you’re doing on the ground deserves to be recognized. The WGBH Lab in Boston is sponsoring Stonewall Uprising – an open call for video shorts capturing the work being done to advance LGBT equality. Videos are limited to three minutes and should show how the legacy of Stonewall is being carried out today. The top five winning videos will each receive ,000, and may air live with the television debut of Stonewall Uprising on WBGH’s American Experience.

The deadline to submit your video is February 14, 2011. Find out more about the application process and what makes a winning video on the open call home page:

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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