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.

—  admin

Celebrities Combat Anti-Gay Bullying On ‘Larry King’


Larry King dedicated his entire CNN show to homophobic bullying last night, and invited gay celebrities like Lance Bass, Chely Wright, Tim Gunn and Nate Berkus to share their stories.

Bass admitted that he used laugh along while his friends taunted gay classmates. "When you're 13, 14, you just go along with what the other people are doing. You just want to fit in. You want to make sure that your friends like you," the singer confessed. "You're going to crack jokes, you're going to laugh along with it. And when you're a teenager, you're not really thinking, oh, I'm being a bully by laughing along with it… But you know, you're also a bully by condoning the behavior and making the jokes along with them."

Meanwhile, Berkus verbalized the isolation of living in the closet, unsure of what "gay" even means: "You are trying to hide a fundamental part of yourself, what happens is that you cannot focus on anything else. Please understand, too, there was no Youtube. There were no — there was no Internet, nothing like that, when I was growing up."

Wanda Sykes also made an appearance, and tied the rise of anti-gay bullying to homophobic legislation, like Don't Ask, Don't Tell. "I believe that it is assisting," she said. "I'm not going to say that that's… the crux of it, because this has been going on for decades. But I think maybe what's making people a little more vocal… is because of issues that — like Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Prop 8. They're so much in the forefront right now of politics that maybe that's, you know, causing people to do more harm."
At the end of it all, gay favorite Kathy Griffin reminded viewers that they're not alone, and that our collective efforts can put an end to bullying: "If you're watching this at home and you feel enraged but helpless, you can help. All right, come see me at the Gibson Theater. Make a monetary donation. Come get a pamphlet. Sign up for the Trevor Project. Sign up for Give a Damn. Go talk to somebody."

I've included the entire episode AFTER THE JUMP…

Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL visits Senator Jim Webb. Servicemembers leave their combat boots.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) voted against the compromise DADT amendment in the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 27th. He’s getting a visit from GetEQUAL today, which you can follow on GetEQUAL’s Facebook page and via twitter. Servicemembers will be leaving their combat boots for Webb, which is a powerful symbol. During the 2006 campaign, Webb wore the combat boots of his son who was serving in Iraq.

We’ll have more on this soon.

Also, SLDN released its target list — and Webb is uncommitted on the filibuster:


–Susan Collins (R-ME)

–Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);

–Richard Lugar (R-IN);

–Judd Gregg (R-NH);

–Jim Webb (D-VA)

–George Voinovich (R-OH);


—  John Wright

DADT Action: GetEQUAL Delivers Signed Combat Boots To Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)

AmericaBlog reports:

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) voted against the compromise DADT amendment in the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 27th. He’s getting a visit from GetEQUAL today, which you can follow on GetEQUAL’s Facebook page and via Twitter.the 2006 campaign, Webb wore the combat boots of his son who was serving in Iraq. Servicemembers will be leaving their combat boots for Webb, which is a powerful symbol. During the 2006 campaign, Webb wore the combat boots of his son who was serving in Iraq.

Joe Sudbay notes that the following Senators are uncommitted to breaking a possible GOP filibuster:

–Susan Collins (R-ME)
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
–Richard Lugar (R-IN)
–Judd Gregg (R-NH)
–Jim Webb (D-VA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH)

Have you called your Senators today? The vote is scheduled for Tuesday at 2:30pm.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

State Department Highlights Efforts to Combat LGBT Discrimination in the US

This week, the State Department submitted a report [pdf] to the United Nations Human Rights Council discussing what actions the U.S. has taken to address human rights issues in the U.S., including what it has done to address LGBT human rights issues in the U.S. The U.S. submitted this report as part of its upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council, which is scheduled for November 2010.

In their report, the State Department explains that “in each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build a more fair society” and that “in this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.”

The report continues by mentioning several actions that the U.S. government has taken to work towards protecting the human rights of LGBT Americans. These actions include enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, prohibiting employment discrimination in federal employment based on sexual orientation, and the extension of some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Moreover, the report cites the Administration’s support of key legislative efforts, such as passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and legislation that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, as government actions that promote equality. Unfortunately, Administration support of these legislative efforts does not remedy any form of discrimination against LGBT people until Congress takes actions on these measures.

Prior to the release of the State Department’s report, HRC, as a member of the Council for Global Equality, submitted a report [pdf] to both the State Department and UN Human Rights Council to highlight ways in which the United States could improve LGBT human rights. We commend the State Department for recognizing the discrimination faced by LGBT Americans in their report, and we will continue to work throughout this year to ensure that the concerns of LGBT Americans will be addressed in the U.S.’s upcoming UPR.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright