Hillary Clinton declares 'gay rights are human rights'


Hillary Clinton: "Being gay is not a western invention, it is a human reality"

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The US has publicly declared it will fight discrimination against gays and lesbians abroad by using foreign aid and diplomacy to encourage reform.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an audience of diplomats in Geneva: "Gay rights are human rights".

A memo from the Obama administration directs US government agencies to consider gay rights when making aid and asylum decisions.

Similar policies already exist for gender equality and ethnic violence.

"It should never be a crime to be gay," Mrs Clinton said at the United Nations in Geneva, adding that a country's cultural or religious traditions was no excuse for discrimination.

Her audience included representatives from countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence.

Many ambassadors rushed out of the room as soon as Mrs Clinton finished speaking, the Associated Press news agency reported.

In October, UK Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion that aid could be cut to countries that did not recognise gay rights was condemned by several African countries where homosexual acts are banned, including Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Last week Nigeria became the latest African country attempting to tighten homosexuality laws, with the Senate passing a bill banning same-sex marriages. Before it becomes law, it must be passed by the lower chamber and then signed by the president.

'Human reality'

The announcement, described by the White House as the "first US government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad", is also being seen as part of the Obama administration's outreach to gays and lesbians ahead of the 2012 election.

The official memorandum does not outline consequences for countries with poor records on gay rights. But it allows US agencies working abroad to consult with international organisations on discrimination.

"Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world," Mrs Clinton said in Geneva. "Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality."

Correspondents say the new policy could pose awkward questions for US officials formulating policy towards some regular allies and regional powers.

In 2011, the state department's annual human rights report cited abuses against gay people in Saudi Arabia, an ally of the US that bans homosexuality outright.

Afghanistan also prohibits homosexual activity, and the same report found that authorities "sporadically" enforced the prohibition.

In the US, Republican presidential candidates criticised the administration's decision, with Texas Governor Rick Perry saying in a statement that "promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America's interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers' money".

Mrs Clinton acknowledged the US had its own mixed record on gay rights. As late as 2003, some states had laws that made gay sex a crime.

Earlier this year President Barack Obama signed into law a bill repealing the "don't ask don't tell" law and allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the US military.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    As a British gay woman, I don't care unduly whether or not gay marriage is allowed in African countries, but this isn't an issue of gay marriage. In many countries around the world it is illegal to be gay, gay people can be imprisoned, tortured, murdered, raped and nothing is done in those countries to stop it. The right to live, to not be imprisoned or raped is not a special right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    As an American who has lived abroad for many years (and continues to do so), I have to agree with the comments that imply or outright accuse the United States of hypocrisy regarding it's gay rights record.
    As a gay American, I cannot bring my partner (who is not American) to the United States to live. This must be sorted out at the same time that the US is preaching against gay discrimination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    In the past the US has rightly been lambasted for supporting regimes with questionable human rights records. This support of gay rights is perhaps a step in the right direction and can hardly be seen as 'meddling' in another culture unless providing millions of dollars of aid is also 'meddling'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    US should stop this stupidity. African and the Arab countries allow one man to marry many wives if they all consent to it. Does the American legal system allow for such practices? Are Africans or Arabs insisting that this practice must be recognized by the American legal system? What happened to the FUNDAMENTAL human rights of women who are disadvantaged by this non-recognition of this practice?

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    It is clear that human rights are only applicable for something that you are born as. I did not choose to be gay and I am proud to be gay. It is not a lifestyle CHOICE. For this reason, people of any creed, ethniticity, diability, sex or SEXUAL ORIENTATION should have rights as none of the above chose to be born as who they are nor should any of them feel guilty for who they are.


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