Kerry LGBT Speech Should Reflect U.S. Commitment to Equality

Washington, D.C. – As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to deliver his first speech on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, Human Rights First urges him to detail progress made and challenges remaining toward implementation of President Obama’s December 2011 memorandum on integrating LGBT rights into all aspects of foreign policy. The organization notes that the speech should reaffirm U.S. policy to further integrate LGBT rights into human rights advocacy through bilateral and multilateral channels, efforts that should include possible engagement of LGBT activists in every country Secretary Kerry visits.

“The administration has broken new ground on these issues and it has created a series of new opportunities to protect the human rights of LGBT people throughout the world,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Lieberman, who will attend Secretary Kerry’s speech tomorrow. “Secretary Kerry’s speech is well-timed to report on the progress of implementing President Obama’s memorandum and laying out his vision U.S. leadership on this critical human rights issue. He should also invite LGBT activists from around the globe to partner with the United States to tackle this important issue.”

Human Rights First notes that Wednesday’s speech, coming in an environment of considerable domestic progress on LGBT rights in recent years, should make clear that the United States foreign policy priorities will actively seek to protect LGBT persons from ongoing persecution and bias-motivated violence. For example, Secretary Kerry could use his speech to speak out against efforts to strengthen legislation that criminalizes homosexuality in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria, or that bans the promotion of homosexuality in Russia.

The organization also urges Secretary Kerry to express concern about serious violence against LGBT persons in places like Honduras, Jamaica, the Philippines and South Africa, where President Obama will travel next week. Secretary Kerry’s speech provides an opportunity for the administration to support passage of hate crime laws in South Africa, pending legislation that could serve as a model for the protection of LGBT people throughout the region.

“The United States should strengthen its investment in global hate crime prevention efforts because of the moral, political and economic damage caused by spates of targeted violence,” LeGendre notes. “The way a government treats its minorities signifies its commitment to democracy and long-term development. The protection of LGBT people, including LGBT refugees, is a most specific indicator of those intentions.”

According to Human Rights First, the States Department should prioritize the rights of LGBT persons in its bilateral and multilateral relationships by:

  • Challenging laws that criminalize same-sex relations.
  • Addressing impunity for violent acts targeting people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as speak out against acts of violence and equip U.S. international law enforcement programs with the tools they need to provide assistance to foreign governments in combating bias-motivated violence.
  • Supporting increased capacity for civil society and other local actors to assist LGBT people with emergency protection needs and raise the profile of these groups by arranging meetings with them when U.S. delegations from the U.S. State Department travel abroad, especially at the highest levels.
  • Providing direct assistance to LGBT people, including refugees, facing immediate risks of violence and assisting individuals who cannot be protected with the country.
  • Mainstreaming the protection of LGBT people into related State Department funding, development and other initiatives.

Earlier this year, many of these recommendations were explored in Human Rights First’s blueprint How to Protect LGBTI Persons around the World from Violence. Lieberman will also be available for comment after the speech has concluded.


Published on June 18, 2013


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