12-6-2011By Tad Stahnke
Director, Policy and Programs
Earlier today, the Obama Administration released a memorandum to federal agencies on initiatives to advance the human rights of LGBT people. An hour later, Secretary Clinton delivered a speech before the U.N. in Geneva that reaffirmed the policy articulated by president that LGBT rights are human rights. Despite the headlines coming out of those two announcements, neither said anything about conditioning foreign aid on the protection of LGBT rights.
President Obama’s directive speaks only of using foreign aid affirmatively to build respect for the human rights of LGBT people in foreign countries. This is in line with the United States Government’s longstanding approach to use its foreign aid programs to support human rights protections by, for example, supporting local human rights advocacy organizations, legal assistance and training of judges, prosecutors, journalists, etc. Likewise, Secretary Clinton said nothing in her speech about conditioning aid. She announced a new funding program to support respect for the human rights of LGBT people.
There are existing laws that condition development and security assistance on human rights performance. Today’s announcements don’t change that. The policy applies across the board to severe human rights abuses, it doesn’t single out rights abuses against LGBT people or any other community.
The import of today’s actions is to declare unequivocally that human rights abuses targeting LGBT people on account of their sexual orientation are international human rights violations. It was also to reiterate that all of the tools that exist to advance human rights as part of US foreign policy apply to these abuses as well. U.S. leadership on this important issue is necessary and should be commended, not misconstrued.