President Obama ordered U.S. diplomatic missions and federal agencies working abroad to strengthen efforts to fight international discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, saying he is “deeply concerned by the violence” against them in many parts of the world.
The memo, immediately celebrated by gay and lesbian leaders, elevates the importance of combating discrimination against the LGBT community within Obama’s foreign policy. The issue is an important one to a key element of Obama’s political base, and the move strengthens the argument he is building that he has done more to end the ostracism experienced by the LGBT community, at home and abroad, than his predecessors.
The memo directs all “agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”
Specifically, the directive orders those agencies to step up efforts to combat the criminalization of homosexuality in other countries, protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, work with foreign governments, human rights organizations and other groups to promote LGBT equality, and create a “standing group” within the State Department to ensure the government reacts quickly to threats to the rights of gays and lesbians.
The federal agencies affected include the State, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services departments, among others.
Obama linked the directive to his statement before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this year, when he said, “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.”