Michelle and I join our fellow Americans and others around the world in commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia tomorrow, May 17. We take this opportunity to reaffirm that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are human rights, to celebrate the dignity of every person, and to underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.
We work toward this goal every day. Here at home, we are working to end bias-motivated violence, combat discrimination in the workplace, and address the specific needs of transgender persons. Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach.
There is much more to do, and this fight for equality will not be won in a day. But we will keep working, at home and abroad, and we will keep fighting, for however long it takes until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights.National Security Adviser Susan Rice took the opportunity to issue a statement that condemns the recent murderously homophobic remarks by Gambian President Jammeh.
The recent unconscionable comments by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh underscore why we must continue to seek a world in which no one lives in fear of violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love. We condemn his comments, and note these threats come amid an alarming deterioration of the broader human rights situation in The Gambia. We are deeply concerned about credible reports of torture, suspicious disappearances – including of two American citizens - and arbitrary detention at the government's hands.
The United States in late 2014 acted on The Gambia’s crackdown against its LGBT community and wider human rights violations by ending trade preferences, and we are reviewing what additional actions are appropriate to respond to this worsening situation.
We repeat our call for the Gambian government, and all governments, to lead inclusively, repudiate intolerance, and promote respect for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.Additionally, the White House released a fact sheet summarizing the numerous measures the Obama administration has taken which benefit the international LGBT Community. Some highlights:
- On December 6, 2011, President Obama released the Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, which directs departments and agencies to combat criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees or asylum seekers; enhance assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination for LGBT persons; and help ensure swift and meaningful responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad.
- In February 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the appointment of Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Special Envoy Berry joins USAID Senior Coordinator Todd Larson in leading the U.S. Government’s efforts to advance the human rights of LGBT persons. Six openly gay U.S. Ambassadors are serving at Embassies around the world. And, this year, the Peace Corps also created a position devoted to training staff to support LGBT Peace Corps Volunteers.
- With the support of the United States, the World Health Organization has begun discussions on the negative repercussions of stigma, discrimination, and other barriers to care for LGBT persons in the health system as a whole. In 2013 the Pan-American Health Organization passed a ground-breaking resolution on LGBT health, which emphasized that equal access to care is a health issue and called on countries to collect data on access to health care and health facilities for their LGBT population.
- Since its inception in 2011, the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, a partnership of 11 governments as well as a number of corporations and private foundations, has allocated more than $19 million to frontline advocates in 50 countries.
- In June 2014 the White House hosted the first-ever Global LGBT Human Rights Forum, which brought together the faith community, private sector, philanthropy, HIV and other health advocates, LGBT activists from around the world, and the broader human rights community to discuss how to work together with the U.S. government and others to promote respect for the human rights of LGBT individuals around the world. National Security Advisory Susan Rice delivered keynote remarks.
This is just a few of the highlights of the impressive accomplishments of the Obama administration in this area.