President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a directive elevating the rights and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people abroad as a priority in U.S. foreign policy.
A memorandum Obama sent to government agencies directs them to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
He said he has been deeply concerned by violence and discrimination targeting such persons. He cited foreign laws criminalizing gays and lesbians, the beating of citizens for joining peaceful celebrations, and the killing of men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.
Obama said America’s commitment to advancing human rights for all people is strengthened when it vigorously advances the goal of promoting lesbian and gay rights. Obama raised the issue at the U. N. General Assembly in September. “No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” he said.
Treatment of gay and lesbian people in other countries is already mentioned in annual State Department country human rights assessments. Obama’s directive elevates the issue’s importance as a foreign policy priority.
Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council criticized Obama’s decision, saying it “throws the full weight and reputation of the U.S. behind the promotion overseas of the radical ideology of the sexual revolution.”
The Texas governor and Republican presidential contender, Rick Perry, called the announcement part of the Obama administration’s “war on traditional American values,” saying that Obama had “mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles.”