December 6, 2011
Building on pro-gay policies put in place by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama today ordered overseas federal agencies to fight local anti-gay violence and provide asylum to homosexuals seeking protection.
Obama said, "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."
His order was immediately praised by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's top lobby for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. "The Obama administration has made a tremendous difference in the lives of LGBT people in the United States and this new strategy helps to extend that presidential leadership across the globe," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. [See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]
"There is no question that the administration's record of advancing equality for LGBT people has been enhanced by the leadership of Secretary Clinton who consistently underscores the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights."
A key element of the president's memo to federal agencies would open up the United States to asylum seekers who are gay. "Those LGBT persons who seek refuge from violence and persecution face daunting challenges," said Obama in his memo. "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." [Read: House Could Spend $1.5M Defending Marriage Act.]
The gay lobby was especially thankful that Obama's order will attempt to protect gays overseas.
"As Americans, we understand that no one should be made a criminal or subject to violence or even death because of who they are, no matter where they live," said Solmonese. "Today's actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people."
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