As President Obama struggles with the politics of gay issues at home, his administration is drawing cheers from human rights groups for its commitment to gay rights around the globe.
In the past several months, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech at the United Nations that dramatically shifted the international human rights focus to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, dedicated $3 million to help promote LGBT rights worldwide, and distributed educational materials to U.S. embassies to keep diplomats alert to gay rights issues.
U.S. involvement was essential in the passage of a U.N. resolution expressing “grave concern” about abuses and violations of gay and lesbian rights, as well as the first debate on gay issues before the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“It is true that Obama’s work internationally is unprecedented,” said Christopher Stoll, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.
Daniel Baer, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, “LGBT rights are a high priority for the State Department, and I think that our commitment to this issue is clear throughout our numerous actions.”
‘A lot has changed’
While U.S. gay groups express frustration at Obama’s refusal to sign an executive order banning discrimination against gay employees of federal contractors and his “evolving” view on same-sex marriage, international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch praise the steps the Obama administration has taken worldwide.
“A lot has changed thanks to the U.S. ongoing policy,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Important steps have been taken.”