Washington — The rights and dignity of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or sexual identity, must be protected, says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton has made gay rights a focus of the State Department’s human rights agenda. “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said June 27 at the State Department. She stressed that U.S. diplomats and development experts around the world are working with regional international institutions “to strengthen a shared consensus about how governments should treat their citizens.”
Clinton cited recent advances in respecting the rights of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people. June is recognized in the United States as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, or LGBT Pride Month.
In 2010, Slovakia’s first gay pride month ended in violence, she said. So before the 2011 parade, U.S. Embassy staff brought together 19 top diplomats to Slovakia from other countries to sign a statement in support of the march. “We, as members of the international community, stand both literally and figuratively with parade participants as they peacefully assemble to stand up for their human rights,” the statement reads. “Everyone, including LGBT people, should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Theodore Sedgwick and Bratislava Mayor Milan Ftáčnik led the 2011 parade.
“This is people-to-people diplomacy at its best,” Clinton said.
In March, President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced their shared support for the creation of a post within the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to promote LGBT rights.
And in June, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed its first resolution rejecting violence and the criminalization of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The resolution was introduced by South Africa. “It was a huge step forward in our work to refute the hateful suggestion that LGBT people are somehow exempt from human rights protections,” Clinton said. She added that Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson consistently raises the issue of gay rights with his African counterparts.
Clinton said that in Honduras, anti-gay violence increased significantly in 2009 and 2010. More than 30 gay people were murdered and investigations into those murders were making no progress. After U.S. diplomats engaged Honduran officials regarding protection of human rights, the Honduran government announced that it was creating a task force that would investigate hate crimes.
She noted that more work is needed to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are recognized. “LGBT people in many places continue to endure threats, harassment and violence,” she said. “They continue to flee their homes and nations and seek asylum because they are persecuted for being who they are. They continue to be targeted for trying to build public support for pride activities such as parades.”
The rights of LGBT people are “one of the most urgent and important human rights struggles of all times,” Clinton said.