The Obama administration announced yesterday that, from now on, foreign aid decisions will take into consideration how countries treat their LGBT citizens, and the president directed U.S. agencies abroad to ensure our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts “promote and protect” the rights of gays and lesbians.
Soon after, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Geneva in recognition of International Human Rights Day, and delivered a rather remarkable speech on the need for equality.
“Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
“It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished…. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity. […]
“To the leaders of those countries where people are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider this: Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. […]
“And finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.”
Those wondering about the differences between Democratic and Republican administrations might want to keep Clinton’s remarks in mind. I suspect the Secretary of State in a Romney or Gingrich administration wouldn’t take such a bold position on the global stage. Call it a hunch.
Indeed, it’s worth noting that some Republican presidential candidates were outraged by the Obama administration’s move yesterday. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) condemned the new policy, calling it “silly,” part of a “war on traditional American values,” and an “example of an administration at war with people of faith.”
Rick Santorum was thinking along the same lines.
Right-wing worldviews notwithstanding, it’s also worth noting that Clinton received a sustained and enthusiastic standing ovation from her audience in Switzerland yesterday. At least for another year, American leadership on the global stage is advancing forward, not backward.