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May 17, 2013

Administration Urged to Protect LGBTI Rights

New York City – Human Rights First today marked International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia by urging the United States Government to continue strengthening protections of LGBTI persons at home and working to advance gay rights abroad.

“The quest for equality is ongoing for millions of Americans,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. “At the same time, protection from violence remains a pressing need for LGBTI persons around the world, particularly those living in the some 76 countries that criminalize same-sex relations or in nations that are undoing years of progress and seeking to limit the fundamental rights of their citizens.”

In December 2012, Human Rights First outlined its recommendations for protecting vulnerable groups in a Blueprint for the Obama Administration. The document addressed various aspects of U.S. Government’s strategy for using its levers to advance equality for LGBTI persons, focusing on the continuous need for President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to speak out and raise instances of abuse and discrimination. Among the key recommendation contained in that blueprint is a call for the Obama Administration to operationalize and institutionalize the provisions White House-issued Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons.

The White House  memorandum set forth a clear policy framework for combating serious rights violations against LGBTI persons, policy tools that Human Rights First further explored in its blueprint that recommended the following:

STRENGTHEN  PROTECTION BY STATES

  • Challenge laws that criminalize same-sex relations
  • Address impunity for violent acts

PROTECT LGBTI PEOPLE FROM IMMEDIATE RISKS OF HARM

  • Support increased capacity for civil society and other local actors to assist LGBTI people with emergency protection needs.
  • Provide direct assistance to LGBTI people facing immediate risks of violence.
  • Assist individuals who cannot be protected within the country.

COORDINATING AND MAINSTREAMING ACTION ACROSS AGENCIES

  • Operationalize the “standing group” mandated by the memorandum to be fully functional, meeting regularly, and taking action to protect against violence targeting LGBTI persons.
  • Task a senior-level official in each of the agencies referenced in the memorandum to lead implementation.
  • Mainstream the protection of LGBTI people into related U.S. government initiatives.
  • Leverage successful U.S. development programs.

“U.S. officials and foreign diplomats must continue to raise in bi-lateral and multi-lateral settings the concerns of LGBTI persons targeted for violence and discrimination,” concluded LeGendre. “The U.S. government’s various agencies must coordinate effectively to ensure they are using all available avenues of outreach and are attune to the concerns raised by civil society groups.”

For more information about Human Rights First’s blueprint, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.