Clinton to United Nations: "Gay Rights Are Human Rights"

December 8, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the assembly at the United Nations in Geneva on December 6, 2011. ©J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AFP/Getty Images

The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights took not one but two critical steps forward this week with President Obama’s release of a Presidential Directive on LGBT rights followed closely by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s international human rights day speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

As we’ve pointed out, in too many countries being gay, or being suspected of being gay, can get you thrown into jail, tortured, raped or killed.  From the so-called corrective rape of lesbians to proposed legislation to institute the death penalty for homosexuality, LGBT people around the world face the daily threat of violence simply for who they are.

But this week, strong words coupled with concrete action by the Obama Administration seek to stem this tide of violence and raise the visibility of LGBT human rights worldwide.

Speaking to a packed room in the Palais des Nations, Secretary Clinton unequivocally stated to the international community that,

“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.”

But more than mere rhetoric, Secretary Clinton’s speech detailed new measures by the Obama Administration to advance global LGBT equality. Earlier in the day, President Obama had released the first-ever U.S. government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad.

The Presidential Directive called, Working to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Persons Globally directs U.S. 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.
  • Report on the U.S. government’s progress.

Amnesty applauds these steps and is calling for swift action to turn this vision into reality for the millions of at-risk LGBT persons around the world.  From people like Jean-Claude Mbede, jailed in Cameroon for 3 years on suspicion of homosexuality, to the LGBT community of Uganda, who fear the passage of a draconian new anti-gay law, these actions by the Obama Administration could make all the difference.

Read more about LGBT issues and how you can help protect the human rights of everyone.