On human rights, the United States must be a beacon. America is strongest when our policies and actions match our values.More
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Too often the human rights of LGBT people are regarded as a “gay issue” and sidelined as a result. LGBT rights are human rights, period, and we’re working to ensure that the U.S. government advances them abroad. We focus on protecting LGBT refugees, combating violent hate crime against LGBT people, and opposing bans on homosexuality and other discriminatory laws. Photo: AP.

For decades the United States has backed Middle Eastern dictatorships in the name of “stability.” But as recent years have shown repression-created stability is illusory. To push back against the destructive impact of brutal regimes that disregard human rights and to defeat violent extremists who exploit sectarian tensions and popular grievances to fuel conflict and unrest, the United States should put protection of human rights as a cornerstone of its Middle East policies. It should confront violent extremism, call on its allies to condemn hateful ideologies that denigrate people of other sects or religions and prioritize urging allies such as Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to turn away from repression and towards respecting basic rights and freedoms.

American popular culture reaches into living rooms and theaters across the world. We challenge the entertainment industry to recognize this power and tackle human rights issues with the accuracy and complexity they demand. We created the Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment to honor creators who meet this challenge. 

Military commissions at Gitmo, now in their third incarnation, are a failed experiment. Structurally shoddy and constitutionally dubious, they have produced few convictions while undermining the rule of law. Federal trials, by contrast, have produced more than 400 convictions of terrorists since 9-11, denied Al Qaeda members the warriors’ martyrdom they seek, and set a standard of justice before the world. Photo: AP.

Our Asylum Representation Program, which recruits and trains lawyers to represent refugees on a pro bono basis, is one of the largest and most successful programs of its kind in the country. Its impact could hardly be more profound: liberty instead of oppression, and sometimes life instead of death, for thousands of people. And beginning with the Refugee Act of 1980, which we helped draft, we’ve been at the forefront of all major reforms to the asylum system. Photo: AP.

Many countries have instituted blasphemy laws in the name of protecting religious freedom. But these laws are often used to persecute religious minorities and suppress freedom of expression. We press the U.S. government to vigorously oppose them, and why we led a successful effort at the U.N. to oppose a “defamations of religious” measure—a global blasphemy code. Photo: Corbis.

To provide military leaders a vehicle to advocate counterterrorism policies that respect human rights, we’ve assembled a coalition of more than 65 retired admirals and generals. Because of its pivotal role in altering the national debate over torture, President Obama invited the coalition to stand with him as he signed the executive order banning the practice. We continue to work with the coalition to champion security policies that uphold the rule of law.

We partner with LGBT and other civil society activists in Russia who are fighting for their rights. Taking our cue from these activists, we urge the U.S. government to emphasize human rights in its diplomacy with Russia, all the more important now that the Putin government has launched a far-ranging clampdown on dissent. Photo: AP.