In a very forthright speech she used the opportunity to advance the cause of LGBT rights throughout the world, whilst managing to recognise that America doesn’t have the best record itself on the issue.
This is a significant speech, because in the run up to an election year this puts the Obama administration firmly in the culture wars zone, standing against the likes of Newt Gingrich , Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann who have come to epitomise the religious right on the republican side. She said
Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse…
…I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I speak about this subject knowing that my own country's record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home…
…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. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives.
You can read the whole transcript here
Republican nominee and Texas Governor Rick Perry has already been on US television calling this Obama’s “war on religion” and I doubt his fellow bigots for Jesus will be far behind.
To my mind this is the first openly liberal and controversial policy stand the Obama administration has made since he was forced to water down his health care reforms. It will be interesting to see how this plays with the American voting public and could well be a touchstone issue for the Presidency.
More importantly if Obama goes through with his intention to tie US aid to LGBT human rights issues it could go a long way to stemming the poisonous attitudes that the Christian churches in Africa, with US fundie encouragement are promulgating among their people. It may not changed their warped religion addled mindset but may persuade them that self interest is not best served by persecuting people over their sexual orientation.