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

Overjoyed, yet full of consternation

HATE LIVES ON | Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

UN resolution on LGBT equality is a victory, but also a reminder of how far we have left to go toward equality

DAVID WEBB |  The Rare Reporter

The passage of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council last month declaring that LGBT people around the world should be afforded equal protections with all other human beings left me overjoyed — yet still full of consternation.

The measure’s passage represented a great victory for human rights advocates who pressed for it. But the very need for such an action underscored how dangerous it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in many parts of the world, including the United States of America.

Homosexuality remains illegal in 76 of the globe’s countries, and it is punishable by death in five of them.

In the United States, where the Texas sodomy law — and in effect, all sodomy laws in the country — were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, discrimination and violence against LGBT people continues to run rampant. An analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in late 2010 revealed that LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be violently attacked as Jews and blacks, more than four times as likely as Muslims and 14 times as likely as Latinos.

In a press release by the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. resolution an “historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that LGBT people face around the world based solely on whom they are and whom they love.”

She noted that torture, rape, criminal proceedings and killings are sanctioned all over the world by religions that condemn anyone who does not adhere to traditional heterosexual norms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

The controversial resolution, which was proposed by South Africa, passed narrowly on a vote of 23 to 19. Although the measure was supported by the U.S. and other Western countries, it was opposed by African and Arab countries where the prosecution and persecution of LGBT individuals is the most severe.

Three countries, including China, abstained from voting.

Reaction to the U.N. resolution from opponents of LGBT rights was telling.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, denounced it as a maneuver in an international agenda to restrict the freedom of churches.

Tomasi claimed the church opposes violence against homosexual behavior and punishment based on a person’s “feelings and thoughts,” but he condemned the measure as detrimental to society and likened laws against homosexuality to prohibitions against incest, pedophilia and rape.

In Ghana, the Rev. Joseph Bosoma of the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church called on President John Evans Atta Mills to crack down on homosexuality in the country, warning that society was on the verge of a punishment similar to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in Biblical times.

The president assured the pastor that the government would take action to check homosexual activity.

Similarly, Alex McFarland of the American Family Association, the group that is sponsoring Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response Prayer Rally in Houston on Aug. 6, declared recently that the world is now in “The Latter Days,” in response to the passage of marriage equality in New York.

He argued that LGBT rights are not the equivalent of human rights.

Soulforce, an LGBT group that monitors conservative religious groups, noted that another host of Perry’s rally, Lou Engle, the leader of The Call, is one of three evangelical leaders in the U.S. who supported the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

For three decades, the greatest impediment to the LGBT rights movement has been Christian Rights groups and their leaders who have seized on the concept of a “homosexual agenda” bent on destroying American culture and society. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, declared the fight against LGBT rights to be a “second civil war.”

Some of these Christian Rights groups have earned the distinction of being identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center because they have resorted to crude name-calling and spreading false information about LGBT people in an effort to draw support to their cause.

Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

LGBT people comprise the last minority group left that it is politically correct in some quarters to attack, and Christian Rights groups and politicians like Gov. Perry are making the most of it.

The beginning of this summer marked the 16th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention’s apology to black people for its abominable treatment of that race over the years, and some gay activists, such as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, petitioned the church group to issue a similar apology to LGBT people.

That, of course, did not happen, but one day perhaps it will.

Until groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, which urges followers to “go the extra mile when witnessing to gay people,” recognize LGBT people as equal, freedom will continue to be a worldwide challenge.

The U.N. resolution was a milestone in that journey to equality, but the road ahead for LGBT people will continue to be a long and difficult one. The U.S., which admittedly is far behind some countries, will likely see success long before LGBT people in some parts of the world feel free.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

N. Texas’ 1st Human Rights Run set Saturday

HRI CEO Cannon Flowers, left, and his partner RafiQ Salleh

The Human Rights Initiative is holding North Texas’ first Human Rights Run on Saturday, April 16 at Bachman Lake.

“We have provided free legal services to the global gay community for people seeking asylum in the United States due to their sexual orientation and the threat of death if they returned to their home country,” said HRI CEO Cannon Flowers.

HRI provides a variety of services to people who have experiences human rights abuses.

HRI supports equality in immigration laws for the LGBT community. Married heterosexual couples may keep a non-citizen spouse in the United States while married gay or lesbian couples do not have that right.

—  David Taffet

LGBT community helps raise money for Oak Cliff artist who needs kidney transplant

Monaliza Morris

Oak Cliff artist Monaliza Morris will undergo a kidney transplant next month. For the last 19 years, she’s lived with lupus, an immune system disease that has compromised her kidneys.

While waiting for the surgery to take place, friends have been helping her do some remodeling in her Winnetka Heights house to make her convalescence easier.

Morris is a volunteer at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, a non-profit organization that helps refugees who have suffered human rights abuses. They have worked to eliminate the anti-gay bias in immigration laws. Friends said she has worked with the North Texas Food Bank’s Empty Bowls program and done AIDS outreach work as well.

Jenny Vann is Morris’ best friend. They met in middle school in Hawaii. Vann was the first person to be tested as a possible donor. They were a match, so Vann is giving Morris one of her kidneys the first week of March.

A fundraiser is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 23 at Agora Entertainment, 3225 Premiere Drive, Irving from 5 to 8:30 p.m. “The Art of Friendship” will include live music and a silent art auction.

“The goal of this is to raise $50,000,” said RafiQ Salleh, whose partner, Cannon Flowers, is the Human Rights Initiative’s CEO. The money will help with the cost of surgery and follow-up medical care.

For more information about Morris or to make a donation online, go here.

—  David Taffet