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Secretary Clinton’s speech, and what matters as much or more

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By Adam Bink

Like many of you here, I read through Secretary Clinton’s speech today (a top 8 moments can be found here). It certainly made headlines not just in the US around the world, and it was an important gesture and decision to stand up for a minority that often goes voiceless. But many of you thought as I did, which is, okay, great, she made a speech. Speeches educate the public and change minds. But what does that compel other countries to do? What do representatives in, say, Nigeria, whose lawmakers not only have “banned” being gay but are moving to criminalize same-sex marriage with a jail term of up to 14 years, care about a speech?

Then the following memorandum issued by the White House came into my inbox. In it are important measures to be taken by this Administration, including relating to foreign aid. These kinds of things are the ones that make countries listen.

In my opinion, that’s the real positive outcome of today: that this Administration says it will walk the walk, and not just talk to talk. The memorandum can be found below.

December 06, 2011
Presidential Memorandum — International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT: International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights. I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation. That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. Specifically, I direct the following actions, consistent with applicable law:

Section 1. Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad. Agencies engaged abroad are directed to strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct.

Sec. 2. Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Those LGBT persons who seek refuge from violence and persecution face daunting challenges. In order to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers at all stages of displacement, the Departments of State and Homeland Security shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers have equal access to protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum. In addition, the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security shall ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, including by providing to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the

Federal Government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs.

Sec. 3. Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance Nondiscrimination. Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.

Sec. 4. Swift and Meaningful U.S. Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBT Persons Abroad. The Department of State shall lead a standing group, with appropriate interagency representation, to help ensure the Federal Government’s swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.

Sec. 5. Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against LGBT Discrimination. Multilateral fora and international organizations are key vehicles to promote respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and to bring global attention to LGBT issues. Building on the State Department’s leadership in this area, agencies engaged abroad should strengthen the work they have begun and initiate additional efforts in these multilateral fora and organizations to: counter discrimination on the basis of LGBT status; broaden the number of countries willing to support and defend LGBT issues in the multilateral arena; strengthen the role of civil society advocates on behalf of LGBT issues within and through multilateral fora; and strengthen the policies and programming of multilateral institutions on LGBT issues.

Sec. 6. Reporting on Progress. All agencies engaged abroad shall prepare a report within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, and annually thereafter, on their progress toward advancing these initiatives. All such agencies shall submit their reports to the Department of State, which will compile a report on the Federal Government’s progress in advancing these initiatives for transmittal to the President.

Sec. 7. Definitions. (a) For the purposes of this memorandum, agencies engaged abroad include the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export Import Bank, the United States Trade Representative, and such other agencies as the President may designate.

(b) For the purposes of this memorandum, agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development include the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export Import Bank, the United States Trade Representative, and such other agencies as the President may designate.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

29 Comments

  • 1. Bob  |  December 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    ending discrimination against LGBT persons is a GLOBAL challenge, and one that is cenral to the U.S. promoting HUMAN RIGHTS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! well said

  • 2. Sagesse  |  December 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @

  • 3. Thark  |  December 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Sounds like the irrational and unfair treatment of bi-national gay couples by DOMA are suddenly even more ILLEGAL than ever before…

    (As if we couldn't already TELL, right…? lol)

  • 4. Bob  |  December 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    sounds like a clear message to SCOTUS,,, re which way to rule on Thursday,,,

  • 5. Cat  |  December 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I am thrilled! Does anybody know what the he history behind this is? Any people or organizations that pushed for this specific action? I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. xxx

  • 6. Derek Williams  |  December 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    This is the most forthright, explicit stand yet from an administration that has already earned its LGBT stripes through DADT repeal, YouTube "It Gets Better" postings, non-defence of DOMA et al. Can you imagine GW Bush even showing an interest?

    We would do well to remember that the Obama administration was elected to represent ALL Americans, not just us LGBT, and horrendous though they are, the religious right have rights too. Therefore I think further progress in the current term is unlikely without the administration getting accused of being a one-trick pony.

    There is not a question in my mind that this is the administration that must be returned to the White House in 2012. There will be plenty of time to continue the marriage equality DOMA battle after that, but with a Republican president and a GOP Congress domination, we can forget it, and maybe even see some rights being rolled back.

    It is clear the present administration is as onside as is electorally possible. Let's just let them get on with the job of winning 2012.

  • 7. Tony  |  December 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Better get the Respect for Marriage act passed soon so that DOMA is off the books. This is a wonderful statement – but while DOMA exists it reeks of "Do as I say, not do as I do".

  • 8. Derek Williams  |  December 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I do believe that the Obama Administration already wants the Respect For Marriage Act to pass, so you're better off saying that to Congress; the President can't pass it on his own.

    The administration already made it clear that it doesn't defend DOMA, and the idea for the Respect For Marriage Act and DOMA repeal certainly didn't come from the GOP.

    With a presidential election looming, the DOMA repeal may have to linger into the next administration. One thing is 100% certain, with a Republican president, DOMA is here to stay, and there will be a rolling back of LGBT rights.

    While it would be great to get DOMA done and dusted before 2012 elections, I think the Obama administration has already made it clear they're on side. Now we need to get behind their re-election, and give them the mandate to govern. We'll eventually get there with Democrats, but there is not a snowball's chance in Hell with Republicans.

    With so much at stake and not a single GOP presidential candidate supporting marriage equality or much else on our agenda, no LGBT citizen in their right mind should vote Republican in 2012.

  • 9. Str8Grandmother  |  December 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    YES WE CAN!!!

  • 10. Ray in MA  |  December 6, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    and WE WILL.

  • 11. Str8Grandmother  |  December 6, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    The video of the speech is inspirational
    Adam could you embed it in this article http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2011/12/video-sec-hi

  • 12. Str8Grandmother  |  December 6, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    :)

  • 13. Cat  |  December 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    The reaction of Rick Perry is just despicable. At least he's not sugar coating his misguided opinion…
    http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/2011/1

  • 14. Str8Grandmother  |  December 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    This is a comment over at JoeMyGod-

    "Rob Reiner speaking at the "Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour – during the Q&A at the end" said that he has personally spoken with the President on Marriage Equality and he's convinced that as soon as the nominee for the repubes is announced President Obama is going to come out in favor of marriage equality. We shall see….."

    WOW! This would be great , let's hope Rob Reiner is correct. It would be really nice to have Obama backing Civil Marriage for sexual minorities as our President when the Supreme Court is ready to hear the case.

  • 15. Bob  |  December 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Last year on Dec. 10th there was an announcement that the U.S. was including LGBT people under the Human Rights Declaration,,,,, I thought that was a really significant thing,, but it really didn't get much press at all,,, If I'm right before the U.S. did not include LGBT's ,,,, so I think Obama has been doing some real important work quietly to bring it to this place,,,,,, and at such a time ,,,,,, that speach by Hillary was the most powerful and awesome , sweet sweet words I've heard yet,,,,, gay rights are human rights,,,, direct and clear about where the U.S. stands,,,, in support of LGBT people around the world,,, and as she said,,, "the U.S. is working on it at home too" but the direction is clear

  • 16. Bob  |  December 6, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Obama did

  • 17. Bob  |  December 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    thanks for requesting that,,, it was awesome to listen to,,,, sweet sweet words of truth and justice for all

  • 18. Derek Williams  |  December 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    CC of a letter I just now emailed to Mrs Clinton:

    "Dear Mrs Clinton

    "I'll make this brief.

    "Your 30 minute speech, spoken from the heart, without hesitation, without reference to notes, is in my opinion the equal of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream". It is on the right side of history. You, as a most forthright advocate from the administration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, will go down in history as one who put yourself in harm's way for us, with little to gain and much to lose.

    "I am 59 years old, and I can say without hesitation, that of all the magnificent speeches I have been lucky enough to hear in my life, and want to hear again and again, yours has touched me more than any other. You understand the problems, and you offer solutions.

    "I only wish I lived in the USA so I could vote for the re-election of President Obama in 2012, and for your election to the Presidency in 2016.

    "There is not a question in my mind that you will be the most worthy candidate.

    "With best wishes
    "Derek Williams"

  • 19. dtwirling  |  December 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    There's also been a recent news release saying that Nigeria has criminalized ATTENDING a gay wedding.

  • 20. Tasty Salamanders  |  December 7, 2011 at 5:17 am

    It is stuff like this causes me to annoyed when LGBT people claim Obama hasn't done anything for us, he has done HEAPS for us.

  • 21. Gregory in SLC  |  December 7, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Woot!

    Woman immigrant in same-sex marriage won't be deported:
    http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/06/us/new-york-same-se

  • 22. Gregory in SLC  |  December 7, 2011 at 6:52 am

    As Sagesse might say, "stay classy Rick Perry" HRC responds to Rick Perry:
    http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/ne

  • 23. Gregory in SLC  |  December 7, 2011 at 7:00 am

    This is really good news to see finally taking affect:

    Soloway said this is the first time the government had asked an immigration court to close removal proceedings against a spouse in a same-sex couple since the Department of Homeland Security announced November 17 that a "working group" would be reviewing all pending immigration cases.

  • 24. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  December 7, 2011 at 9:13 am

    […] AMERICABlog, here’s an example of why yesterday’s memorandum issued by the Obama administration on actions taken to back up Secretary Clinton’s speech is so […]

  • 25. _BK_  |  December 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Awesome! It sounds better when read out loud… (:

  • 26. _BK_  |  December 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Lol. Repubes.

    I don't think there would be much of a risk for Obama if he were to support marriage equality. Especially once the Republican candidate is announced. And it would motivate his progressive base and his LGBT-supportive base… interesting. I doubt it will happen, but it would be very cool.

  • 27. Straght4Equality  |  December 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Gary Johnson supports marriage equality. Since he has been kept out of the debates, few have heard of him. While he doesn't have a chance of winning, the anti-marriage equality stance of the GOP candidates has an exception.

    Nevertheless, I agree with everything else that you said.

  • 28. David Myers  |  December 8, 2011 at 5:16 am

    And Hillary Too! A Conspiracy of Justice!

  • 29. David Myers  |  December 8, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Exactly!

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