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Promotion of gay rights worldwide is a US foreign policy priority, says Clinton

December 09, 2011

“Gay rights and human rights” are “one and the same,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared in an address delivered at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same,” she told the assembled diplomats. “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

After citing instances of violence against homosexuals, Clinton said that

perhaps [the] most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT [lesbian gay bisexual transgendered] citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation …

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

“Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others,” Clinton added. “Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.”

“Progress comes from changes in laws,” she continued. “In many places, including my own country, legal protections have preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a teaching effect … And practically speaking, it is often the case that laws must change before fears about change dissipate.”

Emphasizing importance the Obama administration places upon the promotion of gay rights, Clinton said that

The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy … This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first US Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad. Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all US Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status …

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.

Clinton made her remarks on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

“Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family,” the UDHR declared. “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Dec. 12, 2011 4:00 PM ET USA

    How progressive of you Mrs. Clinton. What about the right to be born? Not in your list of human rights? How progressive of you to defend gay righs while you encourage the slaughter of millions of LGBTQs all over the world before they are even born.

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Dec. 11, 2011 12:34 AM ET USA

    "Progress comes from changes in law." I don't think the German people, especially German Jews would agree with Mrs. Clinton that changes made to the German Constituion by the Nazi Party when Hitler came to power in the 1930's was progress. Nor would my ancestors agree that the Penal Laws imposed on Irish Catholics by imperial England in the 17th century, which disenfranchised them from all political and economic power for the purpose of coercing them into apostasy was anything but progress.

  • Posted by: unum - Dec. 10, 2011 9:44 AM ET USA

    Mrs. Clinton says,“Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.” Let me interpret. Christians are entitled to our opinions about moral behavior, but we are not entitled to speak them (hate speech) or to advocate laws that require them no matter what the U.S. Constitution says. Clinton needs a to get a job at the U.N., because she clearly doesn't speak for America.

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Dec. 09, 2011 11:24 PM ET USA

    This culture is OK with religious belief as long as it isn't taken seriously and is kept to ones self but the problem is that Catholicism is supposed to be a worldview that colors EVERYTHING we do. Clinton, the UN and the culture we live in is also pushing a worldview, a pluralist one that allows everyone the freedom to believe anything as long as they don't take it seriously. These people want to rob religion of it's power and put a religious humanism in it's place.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 09, 2011 7:49 PM ET USA

    If she's talking about homosexuals' right to be treated with dignity, without discrimination and equally before the law, then sure, gay rights are humans rights and vice versa. But if she's talking about gay marriage, well, gays HAVE the exact same right to marry that straight people do - they have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex who isn't an immediate relative or a minor. What they DON'T have is the right to force a radical redefinition of marriage on the whole world.