Earlier this month, Ambassador Susan Rice delivered an address regarding the Obama administration’s leadership on international human rights. In this speech, Rice specifically criticized the human rights records of Russia and China while also highlighting what the US has to improve international human rights.
“We support these rights and freedoms with a wide range of tools, because history shows that nations that respect the rights of all their citizens are more just, more prosperous and more secure.” – Ambassador Susan E. Rice, December 4, 2013
Over the course of the final two weeks of the 2013, we’re going to cover in a series of blog posts what the Obama administration has worked on, and hasn’t worked on, during its tenure in the Oval Office. The administration has done well on some issues, while others could use much more work. Today, we’re covering LGBT rights in the US and around the world. This is an issue where the presidency has made great progress, but not every issue will show as much progress and attention.
Advancing LGBT Rights at Home and Abroad
Domestically Advancing LGBT Equality:
In his first term, President Obama and his Administration took significant steps toward equality for the LGBT community. The President signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that included important new protections for the LGBT community. The Obama Administration also issued important guidance to ensure visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones at hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid payments, implemented the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and prohibited discrimination against LGBT people in federally funded housing programs. Finally, the President also ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and has directed his Department of Justice to work with other departments and agencies to ensure the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor is swiftly implemented, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations.
International Initiatives to Advance LGBT Rights and Nondiscrimination
In December 2011, President Obama signed the first-ever Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, requiring that federal agencies work together to meet common goals in support of the human rights of LGBT persons globally. Consistent with these goals, the United States assists activists and individuals under threat around the world through public statements, quiet diplomatic engagement, and targeted programs. Through the Global Equality Fund and the LGBT Global Development Partnership, the United States works with government and private sector partners to support programs that combat discriminatory legislation; protect human rights defenders; train LGBT leaders on how to participate more effectively in democratic processes; and increase civil society capacity to document human rights violations. Additional programs and research focus on protecting vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad
Working with our embassies overseas and civil society on the ground, the United States has developed strategies to combat criminalization of LGBT status or conduct in countries around the world.
Engaging International Organizations in the Fight against LGBT Discrimination
The United States works with our partners to defend the human rights of LGBT persons through the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and in other multilateral fora. In addition to supporting resolutions specific to LGBT issues, such as cosponsoring the historic June 2011 UN Human Rights Council resolution on the human rights of LGBT persons, the United States works to ensure that LGBT persons are included in broader human rights resolutions and statements.
Promoting Action and Coordination
The United States will host in 2014 a global gathering of donors and activists to pursue ways we can work together to strengthen protections for LGBT persons around the world, including by ensuring assistance in this area is strategic and coordinated with our like-minded partners.