At least 100 transgender and gender diverse people have been murdered already in 2016, according to new data released by Transgender Europe, the highest number in the first four months of any year since 2008. Seventy-five nations criminalize same-sex relationships, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and in 10 countries same-sex conduct is punishable by death.
By contrast, same-sex marriage licenses are now being issued in 20 countries, as well as in parts of Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Obama has observed the date in the past, but the statement has taken on added significance now that the administration is embroiled in a legal fight with North Carolina on that state's law restricting transgender individuals' access to restrooms and has issued nationwide guidance requiring public schools give transgender students access to the facilities of their choice.
"It is our view that you should treat these kids with dignity," Obama said in an interview with BuzzFeed on Monday.
In the statement, the president said that advancing the goal of equality "has long been a cornerstone of American diplomacy," and he singled out the "great strides that our nation has made at home in recent years," including the Supreme Court's 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
Still, he added, "In too many places, LGBT individuals grow up forced to conceal or deny who they truly are for fear of persecution, discrimination, and violence. All nations and all communities can, and must, do better."
When it comes to LGBT advocates, Obama said, "The United States honors their work and will continue to support them in their struggle for human dignity."