Monday, March 9, 2009

Speaking Out for Equality on the Global Stage

In a move that is virtually unprecedented in American foreign policy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (pictured) is speaking on the world stage about LGBT discrimination and sending strong signals that the Obama administration plans to take an active role in battling prejudice and discrimination around the globe.

On Friday morning, Clinton, appearing in Brussels and speaking with a group of young people at the European Parliament, drew "lots of applause," according to the Financial Times, when she spoke out forcefully against second-class citizenship for lesbians and gays.

The "best moment" of her appearance in Brussels, according to the Times, "came when she caught sight of a semi-shaven man sporting an 'I love Hillary' T-shirt. She said she simply had to take a question from him because of what he was wearing. The guy turned out to be an English-speaking gay rights activist from Moldova, and he wanted to know what the Obama administration would do for the world’s gays and lesbians. Putting on her best stateswoman-like face, Clinton replied: 'Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. In particular, persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously.' Lots of applause followed."

Clinton's strong condemnation of anti-gay discrimination comes on the heels of the announcement that the Obama administration plans to reverse the long-standing U.S. opposition to a United Nations proposal supporting equality for LGBT people.

According to The U.N. Dispatch, the United States recently voted in favor of the measure, after voting "no" on the 13-point proposal during the Bush administration.

The declaration, the Dispatch reports, is "to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention." The resolution also, "...Recognizes that experiences of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance are aggravated and intersect with discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity, and condemns all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on these grounds."

Having the United States as a strong proponent of equality on the international stage will, no doubt, have a ripple effect around the world. It also sends an unmistakable message that the U.S. intends to once again play a significant, global role in defending the dignity of all people and the liberty of everyone, regardless of who they are or who they love.

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