Speaking yesterday at a United Nations event in Geneva, Switzerland marking International Human Rights Day (full text of remarks), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a strong call for protection of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. She said in part:
Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs.....
The ... perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn't cultural; it's criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.
In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.
Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings.....LGBT rights advocates called the speech historic. (Dallas Voice.) The State Department also issued a Fact Sheet outlining more broadly its accomplishments in promoting LGBT human rights. Meanwhile at the White House yesterday, President Obama issued a Memorandum to executive departments and agencies (full text) "directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons."