Nationally, President Obama’s administration has made dozens of historic strides in the fight for equality for the LGBT community. The most significant, and most publicized, is the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Now, Obama’s administration is taking the fight to another level, internationally.
Never before in our history has the issue of gay rights been used when considering foreign aid support until now. Just last month, huge steps were taken in the movement to fight the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct across the globe. A recent memo from the White House promises to “protect 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 and engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.”
In the same week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a ground-breaking, history-making speech in Geneva to the United Nations. Secretary Clinton argued for nearly thirty minutes that gay rights are in fact human rights. Alluding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Clinton reiterated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. “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.”
Clinton pushed the room to understand, “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…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.” Her inspiring and historic words were followed by a standing ovation both in the room and world-wide. If you missed the speech, I highly recommend you take the time to view it online.
Continuing the momentum in December, in another historic moment, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to adopt a resolution that would protect gay rights across the globe. The resolution forms a way to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence, giving hope to the millions in the gay community. While the resolution has no enforcement mechanism, the international resolution gives hope and inclusion to many who may have never felt that they were viewed as equal human beings.
It’s been over 40 years since the Stonewall Riots – the event in American history that many reference as the start of the gay rights movement. We still have a long way to go in the fight for full equality, but change is happening every day; never lose sight of that. As a lesbian living in Colorado, and the United States, I only hope that the examples our country leads by will soon hit home, and then maybe, just maybe, I will be considered equal, too.