Clinton to United Nations: "Gay Rights Are Human Rights"

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the assembly at the United Nations in Geneva on December 6, 2011. ©J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AFP/Getty Images

The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights took not one but two critical steps forward this week with President Obama’s release of a Presidential Directive on LGBT rights followed closely by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s international human rights day speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

As we’ve pointed out, in too many countries being gay, or being suspected of being gay, can get you thrown into jail, tortured, raped or killed.  From the so-called corrective rape of lesbians to proposed legislation to institute the death penalty for homosexuality, LGBT people around the world face the daily threat of violence simply for who they are.

But this week, strong words coupled with concrete action by the Obama Administration seek to stem this tide of violence and raise the visibility of LGBT human rights worldwide.

Speaking to a packed room in the Palais des Nations, Secretary Clinton unequivocally stated to the international community that,

“Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

But more than mere rhetoric, Secretary Clinton’s speech detailed new measures by the Obama Administration to advance global LGBT equality. Earlier in the day, President Obama had released the first-ever U.S. government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad.

The Presidential Directive called, Working to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Persons Globally directs U.S. agencies to:

  • Combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad.
  • Protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination.
  • Ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad.
  • Engage International Organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.
  • Report on the U.S. government’s progress.

Amnesty applauds these steps and is calling for swift action to turn this vision into reality for the millions of at-risk LGBT persons around the world.  From people like Jean-Claude Mbede, jailed in Cameroon for 3 years on suspicion of homosexuality, to the LGBT community of Uganda, who fear the passage of a draconian new anti-gay law, these actions by the Obama Administration could make all the difference.

Read more about LGBT issues and how you can help protect the human rights of everyone.

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41 thoughts on “Clinton to United Nations: "Gay Rights Are Human Rights"

  1. what about Guantanamo and people who live in jail,tortured ?where they rights? i see that you can make more than you do .
    tn theLGBT Rights i see that it,s a greed joup you can do to this people and i hop that you make for -lgbt-a safe place in every country with oll kind of care

  2. It's great that the Obama administration is helping the cause of gay rights overseas, but I find it odd that he's doing nothing here in the states to further their cause. Maybe he's too worried about not getting re-elected in 2012 if he makes too many waves. This is the story of his entire presidency.

  3. Just another instance when U.S. government uses the pretext of human rights to legitimize its intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations. Just like the fight for women's rights are used in the Middle East, in particular in Afghanistan, by Clinton herself to continue the wars and occupation there. Needless to say all this only undermines the cause of human rights as affected people see through the hypocrisy of the U.S. government. And it's a shame that Amnesty International does not see through it and instead plays the role of legitimizer of U.S. policies, doing disfavor for the cause of human rights and those who really fight for them.

  4. I don't normally leave comments, but I'm so shocked that the only comments I see so far are so negative. Is Obama perfect? Of course not. Has his record on LGBT issues in the US been disappointing? Yes. Is the US and our record on human and civil rights spotless? Definitely not! But when someone takes a step in the right direction you applaud it. If we only ever complain than policy makers will think there's no pleasing this consitituency and they won't even bother trying. Sorry to be a little cynical, but realistically we need to celebrate the minor victories in order to encourage further progress. I for one am thrilled by this development and I plan on communicating that to my representatives.

  5. what about Guantanamo and people who live in jail,tortured ?where they rights? i see that you can make more than you do .
    tn theLGBT Rights i see that it,s a greed joup you can do to this people and i hop that you make for -lgbt-a safe place in every country with oll kind of care

  6. It’s great that the Obama administration is helping the cause of gay rights overseas, but I find it odd that he’s doing nothing here in the states to further their cause. Maybe he’s too worried about not getting re-elected in 2012 if he makes too many waves. This is the story of his entire presidency.

  7. Just another instance when U.S. government uses the pretext of human rights to legitimize its intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations. Just like the fight for women’s rights are used in the Middle East, in particular in Afghanistan, by Clinton herself to continue the wars and occupation there. Needless to say all this only undermines the cause of human rights as affected people see through the hypocrisy of the U.S. government. And it’s a shame that Amnesty International does not see through it and instead plays the role of legitimizer of U.S. policies, doing disfavor for the cause of human rights and those who really fight for them.

  8. I don’t normally leave comments, but I’m so shocked that the only comments I see so far are so negative. Is Obama perfect? Of course not. Has his record on LGBT issues in the US been disappointing? Yes. Is the US and our record on human and civil rights spotless? Definitely not! But when someone takes a step in the right direction you applaud it. If we only ever complain than policy makers will think there’s no pleasing this consitituency and they won’t even bother trying. Sorry to be a little cynical, but realistically we need to celebrate the minor victories in order to encourage further progress. I for one am thrilled by this development and I plan on communicating that to my representatives.

  9. Agree with Meghan and also realize that US Gov is perceived as interferring but, these issues are rarely discussed internationally and I applaud Hilary on this. Please keep up the real work!

  10. i normally do not leave comments but i am think about obama concept? it won't be true because if we decide to follow this but this is not possible?
    i think "Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall."

  11. Agree with Meghan and also realize that US Gov is perceived as interferring but, these issues are rarely discussed internationally and I applaud Hilary on this. Please keep up the real work!

  12. i normally do not leave comments but i am think about obama concept? it won’t be true because if we decide to follow this but this is not possible?
    i think “Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.”

  13. A huge (double) step forward and I'm extremely pleased to see the Obama administration (finally) stating its position loudly and clearly for gay rights. Silence from our governments in the industrialised democracies on any issue of human rights abuse is wrong, but our silence to the rest of the world on this issue has been abhorrent. Let's hope other governments will follow the example. I fully support and encourage Amnesty's further efforts for LGBT rights.

  14. A huge (double) step forward and I’m extremely pleased to see the Obama administration (finally) stating its position loudly and clearly for gay rights. Silence from our governments in the industrialised democracies on any issue of human rights abuse is wrong, but our silence to the rest of the world on this issue has been abhorrent. Let’s hope other governments will follow the example. I fully support and encourage Amnesty’s further efforts for LGBT rights.

  15. i am really surprise at the recent release from the US presidency for the support for LGBT. it is very imperative we understand that every country has it culture and the ethics of which its values and norms were build upon. has USA considered the right of people in Iraq before going to war in Iraq when even the UN was against it? what about the support of NETO to anti Gadafi rebels and what was role of Amnesty against the war in both Iraq and the revolution in Libya? what role is amnesty playing for Palestine to be recognize at UN? the whole world was against a sitting government, i don't want to believe that Amnesty are selective in undertaking their role….Nazir from Ghana

  16. [to nazir iddriss:] Yes, you have a point – it often seems hypocritical the USA's lack of consistency, the example of Iraq is a good one. But it should be noted that this was a Bush/Cheney war and, at them time, Senators Obama and Clinton both opposed the Iraq war and, since coming to power, have tried to extract the US from it. (And yes, they could be trying harder and quicker).
    Nevertheless, human rights and respect for them are universal. Local, nationalistic 'culture and ethics' must adapt to those universal principles. LGBT rights are undeniably part of those human rights.
    Amnesty support for human rights and justice for Palestinians has been strong and consistent over many decades.

  17. i am really surprise at the recent release from the US presidency for the support for LGBT. it is very imperative we understand that every country has it culture and the ethics of which its values and norms were build upon. has USA considered the right of people in Iraq before going to war in Iraq when even the UN was against it? what about the support of NETO to anti Gadafi rebels and what was role of Amnesty against the war in both Iraq and the revolution in Libya? what role is amnesty playing for Palestine to be recognize at UN? the whole world was against a sitting government, i don’t want to believe that Amnesty are selective in undertaking their role….Nazir from Ghana

  18. [to nazir iddriss:] Yes, you have a point – it often seems hypocritical the USA’s lack of consistency, the example of Iraq is a good one. But it should be noted that this was a Bush/Cheney war and, at them time, Senators Obama and Clinton both opposed the Iraq war and, since coming to power, have tried to extract the US from it. (And yes, they could be trying harder and quicker).
    Nevertheless, human rights and respect for them are universal. Local, nationalistic ‘culture and ethics’ must adapt to those universal principles. LGBT rights are undeniably part of those human rights.
    Amnesty support for human rights and justice for Palestinians has been strong and consistent over many decades.

  19. i am really surprise at the recent release from the USA presidency for the support for LGBT. it is very imperative we understand that every country has it culture and the ethics of which its values and norms were build upon. has USA considered the right of people in Iraq before going to war in Iraq when even the UN Nations was against it? what about the support of NETO to anti Gadafi rebels. what was role of Amnesty against the war in both Iraq and the revolution in Libya? what role is amnesty playing for Palestine to be recognize at UN? the whole world was against a sitting government in the case of Libya till he was finally killed, i don't want to believe that Amnesty and USA are selective in undertaking in championing what is call Human Right….Nazir from Ghana

  20. [ To David Theriault] they never commented on the Double standard the American presidency played at the UN summit when most nation were expecting that Palestine were going to be considered.it is obvious the world should have comment responsibility on human right. but not when it is against procreation of the human race.it a situation where we should have people engage is these act what will be the population of the world in the next 50 years? because we are never going to have an increase in population. this act should a matters of concern like the role of the world on issues of environmental threat for i see this to be a campaign against the human race.

  21. i am really surprise at the recent release from the USA presidency for the support for LGBT. it is very imperative we understand that every country has it culture and the ethics of which its values and norms were build upon. has USA considered the right of people in Iraq before going to war in Iraq when even the UN Nations was against it? what about the support of NETO to anti Gadafi rebels. what was role of Amnesty against the war in both Iraq and the revolution in Libya? what role is amnesty playing for Palestine to be recognize at UN? the whole world was against a sitting government in the case of Libya till he was finally killed, i don’t want to believe that Amnesty and USA are selective in undertaking in championing what is call Human Right….Nazir from Ghana

  22. [ To David Theriault] they never commented on the Double standard the American presidency played at the UN summit when most nation were expecting that Palestine were going to be considered.it is obvious the world should have comment responsibility on human right. but not when it is against procreation of the human race.it a situation where we should have people engage is these act what will be the population of the world in the next 50 years? because we are never going to have an increase in population. this act should a matters of concern like the role of the world on issues of environmental threat for i see this to be a campaign against the human race.

  23. [to nazir iddress] please do not be afraid. Basic human rights for LGBT does not threaten the world population nor will ensuring universal rights for everyone do you any personal harm. There is no need for you to be fearful of rights for everyone, it is like a child who is afraid of the darkness. Once you turn on the light you will see there was nothing there, nothing to fear and nothing to hate.

  24. [to nazir iddress] please do not be afraid. Basic human rights for LGBT does not threaten the world population nor will ensuring universal rights for everyone do you any personal harm. There is no need for you to be fearful of rights for everyone, it is like a child who is afraid of the darkness. Once you turn on the light you will see there was nothing there, nothing to fear and nothing to hate.

  25. I think I am ashamed of almost all the negative comments I have read so far. I think we should applaud and show support that the President and Secretary of State is showing support for Human rights giving LGBT people around the world who are tortured and even killed a voice. We are people that support human rights, whether it is gay rights, women rights, or violation of rights of civilians in middle east, we should see that this is a step forward. All issues must be addressed. I think it is ignorant,selfish, and shallow to make a comment "what about Guantanamo?. Guantanamo must be dealt with but that doesn't mean we ignore all the other violations of human rights. Human rights is human rights.

  26. I think I am ashamed of almost all the negative comments I have read so far. I think we should applaud and show support that the President and Secretary of State is showing support for Human rights giving LGBT people around the world who are tortured and even killed a voice. We are people that support human rights, whether it is gay rights, women rights, or violation of rights of civilians in middle east, we should see that this is a step forward. All issues must be addressed. I think it is ignorant,selfish, and shallow to make a comment “what about Guantanamo?. Guantanamo must be dealt with but that doesn’t mean we ignore all the other violations of human rights. Human rights is human rights.

  27. No one should be disregarding a national policy of torture in a democratic country within their own prisons. Gay rights are important, but they are not more important than ensuring torture is NOT condoned by government. We have misplaced priorities when the right to torture prisoners continues in this country while gay rights are fought in international forums. Nothing is more important than stopping than torture. Nothing. Every gay person with a shred of decency is sickened by the crimes against humanity first; all other issues are secondary.

  28. No one should be disregarding a national policy of torture in a democratic country within their own prisons. Gay rights are important, but they are not more important than ensuring torture is NOT condoned by government. We have misplaced priorities when the right to torture prisoners continues in this country while gay rights are fought in international forums. Nothing is more important than stopping than torture. Nothing. Every gay person with a shred of decency is sickened by the crimes against humanity first; all other issues are secondary.

  29. Gays are tortured and executed for the simple fact of being gay around the world. Some are abandoned and homeless. Many LGBT were murdered by others or committed suicide because the lack of governmental protection or because of general abusive/hateful attitude. It is an issue that must be addressed just as much as racial rights, women rights, or political freedom. Torturing of innocents must be addressed, but that DOES not mean we have to put aside other human rights violations. Amnesty has many different campaigns targeting different issues of human rights violations. Our top priority is to stop human rights violations in general and that encompasses all, whether it is the torturing and imprisonment of innocent civilians in the middle east or anywhere else around the world, women denied their political and social freedom, or gays' right to securely expressing who they are. All are equally important and such violations being recognized is a victory.

  30. Gays are tortured and executed for the simple fact of being gay around the world. Some are abandoned and homeless. Many LGBT were murdered by others or committed suicide because the lack of governmental protection or because of general abusive/hateful attitude. It is an issue that must be addressed just as much as racial rights, women rights, or political freedom. Torturing of innocents must be addressed, but that DOES not mean we have to put aside other human rights violations. Amnesty has many different campaigns targeting different issues of human rights violations. Our top priority is to stop human rights violations in general and that encompasses all, whether it is the torturing and imprisonment of innocent civilians in the middle east or anywhere else around the world, women denied their political and social freedom, or gays’ right to securely expressing who they are. All are equally important and such violations being recognized is a victory.

  31. Sorry, torture is a priority! It's just the way it is! All gay people, those fighting for racial justice, women seeking equality, or political freedom activists everywhere in the world know this! Freedom from torture is a universal mandate from all people, throughout all time, and forever into the future! The only thing higher is genocide. Human rights violations are what they are – scaled according to atrocity. Saying human rights violations are all equally important is a falsehood that all people everywhere recognize.

  32. Sorry, torture is a priority! It’s just the way it is! All gay people, those fighting for racial justice, women seeking equality, or political freedom activists everywhere in the world know this! Freedom from torture is a universal mandate from all people, throughout all time, and forever into the future! The only thing higher is genocide. Human rights violations are what they are – scaled according to atrocity. Saying human rights violations are all equally important is a falsehood that all people everywhere recognize.

  33. Gay rights when they are in privacy OK, but when in public shoult act and show like everybody else, HOW about Rights of the Straith people, where is the list_____Then why not the Sodomy practice right, for animals and humans, are the transgensers natural and can they reproduce.

  34. Gay rights when they are in privacy OK, but when in public shoult act and show like everybody else, HOW about Rights of the Straith people, where is the list_____Then why not the Sodomy practice right, for animals and humans, are the transgensers natural and can they reproduce.

  35. I agree with gay rights and animal rights and sodomy rights etc… but i don't know what sort of a world we live in that even needs things like this… it's pretty screwed up if you ask me.

  36. I agree with gay rights and animal rights and sodomy rights etc… but i don’t know what sort of a world we live in that even needs things like this… it’s pretty screwed up if you ask me.

  37. i respect amnesty a lot because its the small steps that eventually lead to bugger steps, like we saw with th earabian uprising against corrupt governments