U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice today said the United States has taken historic strides to advance LGBT equality.
At the Pride Month Reception held by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, Ms. Rice said exactly one week after the United Nations, for the first time in history, adopted a resolution dedicated to advancing the basic and fundamental human rights of LGBT persons.
“That vote at the Human Rights Council marked a major victory for defenders of human rights. It sent a clear message that abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity must end. And for the first time ever, it commissioned a UN report to investigate the challenges that LGBT persons face.” -Ms. Rice
According to Ms. Rice, the U.S. delegation voted yes in Geneva, and reaffirmed a basic American promise: to fight discrimination in any guise and to embrace diversity in every form.
She said the vote marked the beginnings of universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights as all human beings and entitled to the same protections as all human beings.
She stressed that the United Nations is finally beginning to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for LGBT persons.
Ms. Rice stated that the United States is now a member of the LGBT Core Group at the United Nations-a decision that was long overdue.
“One of the very first changes our Administration made at the UN was to join the General Assembly’s Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which condemns violence, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” -Ms. Rice
She pointed out that in 2010, the United States also waged a serious fight against discrimination in New York. She said the wider State Department has made important progress too. She noted that the Department’s annual Human Rights Report now includes a section on the way LGBT persons are treated in every country.
She stated that the Department announced a new grant to provide emergency aid to some human rights defenders, either because they work on LGBT issues or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender themselves in 2009.
“Even as we work to support LGBT persons abroad, we are leading by example-and pushing to ensure that LGBT rights are fully realized here at home.” -Ms. Rice
According to Ms. Rice, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to violently attack someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2009. She added law enforcement officials in United States now have the tools to respond to gay-bashing and related violent acts wherever they occur in the United States.
“And for the first time, the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” became part of U.S. law to provide explicit protection to LGBT individuals.” -Ms. Rice
Ms. Rice noted President Obama issued a presidential memorandum extending, to the extent permissible under current law, federal benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of U.S. government employees in 2009.
She underscored that the quest for equality for LGBT persons isn’t just an American challenge. She emphasized it must be the work of all peoples and all nations.