Friday, December 9, 2011

Obama Administration Stands Up for LGBT Human Rights; Homophobes Go Ballistic

On Tuesday, December 6th, President Obama issued a historic memorandum announcing initiatives to advance LGBT human rights internationally. The memorandum directed agencies involved in U.S. foreign assistance and diplomacy to safeguard LGBT human rights. Specifically, it called for such agencies to combat criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protect vulnerable LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, and work with international organizations in the struggle against anti-LGBT discrimination.

The release of the memorandum coincided with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address to the United Nations in Geneva, in which she urged all countries to respect LGBT civil rights. Secretary Clinton acknowledged the violence and unjust treatment encountered by LGBT worldwide, calling them "an invisible minority." Wisely, she countered common stereotypes that homosexuality is supposedly a Western phenomenon, that homosexuality is a disease than can be cured, that gays are sexual predators, etc. Secretary Clinton also acknowledge that LGBT rights are human rights, and that LGBT persons share "a common humanity." Finally, she announced the launch of a new Global Equality Fund that will support organizations working on LGBT issues worldwide.

This is amazing news. The U.S. government has taken a concrete stand for the global LGBT community, and has issues two powerful statements expressing their support for LGBT human rights. In a world where LGBT people face horrors such as murder, corrective rape, and draconian anti-gay legislation, such support could not be more timely.

Unfortunately -- but not surprisingly -- members of the Religious Right have expressed outrage at this White House show of support for LGBT rights. Tiresome rhetoric about "special rights" and "traditional values" abounds among Religious Right commentators, as the following examples demonstrate.

First, Family Research Council immediately condemned the memorandum with scathing language. In a December 6th press release, FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg was stunned that President Obama wanted to promote "the radical ideology of the sexual revolution" overseas. He condemned the White House for "imposing an alien ideology" on other nations, claiming that U.S. allies would supposedly accuse the president of "cultural imperialism" if he did so with other issues. Sprigg insisted that the United Nations is divided on whether "special rights" should be granted on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. 

During the December 7th edition of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson lamented that the U.S. was supposedly "forcing" other countries to accept LGBTs but was not taking enough action regarding the persecution of Christians in other parts of the globe. He warned viewers that continued violation of God's principles would result in a "horrible" fate. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.) At the 5:23 mark of the episode, Robertson had this to say.

"Isn’t it appalling that the United States of America would try to force the acceptance of homosexuality on other nations, but at the same time we would not force them to take care of their religious minorities and they would permit discrimination and persecution of Christians? What kind of a country have we got? You know, there is a God in heaven and he is just. Thomas Jefferson, ‘I tremble when I remember that God is just.’ He is just. He is not going to allow this kind of thing to go on forever. This country cannot continue to violate God’s principles and to make a mockery of His laws and think we’re going to get away with it. And when the blow comes, it’s going to be horrible."

In a December 6th statement on his website, Texas Gov. Rick Perry lambasted the Obama Administration for its supposed "war on traditional values," accusing it of being at "war" with people of faith. He criticized the promotion of "special rights for gays in foreign countries," insisting that it did not deserve taxpayer money. (Hat tip to the Advocate.) 

CNN reports that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was unhappy with the memorandum. According to the article, Santorum accused President Obama of "promoting gay lifestyles and gay rights," and said that the U.S. should distribute humanitarian aid based on need rather than "whether people are promoting their particular agenda."

In a December 7th commentary at World Net Daily, Bob Unruh claimed that President Obama wanted to make the U.S. the "global sex cop" and create "special provisions" for gays to enter the U.S. Unruh quoted favorably from anti-LGBT activists such as Peter LaBarbera of AFTAH and Randy Thomasson of SaveCalifornia.  

Finally, in a December 7th broadcast of The Janet Mefferd Show, Janet Mefferd and Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel lambasted the memorandum and U.N. speech. At the 21:21 mark of the second hour of the broadcast, Barber mocked the measure as allegedly in keeping with the Obama administration's "self-righteous, presumptuous, and wholly disingenuous approach to these issues." At 22:21, Barber fumed that the U.S. was "essentially exporting America's moral decline to other nations and using extortion to insist upon and to force poor nations, poor people, poor countries to adopt this postmodern sexual anarchist view of these types of behaviors."

Mefferd and Barber complained about LGBT rights being associated with human rights, with the assumption that equal rights for the LGBT community did not constitute human rights. Like Pat Robertson, they also fumed that attention was being given to LGBT rights as opposed to persecution of Christians worldwide. The idea that one could support the rights of both persecuted Christians around the globe and the LGBT community was not considered. At the 28:38 mark, the two scoffed at the idea of violence against LGBT individuals.
MEFFERD: Here’s a question I had too. In all the stories that I was reading yesterday about this directive, in none of them did I see any breakdown of statistics on the number of homosexuals and transgenders worldwide who are being tortured, persecuted and killed for being gay. Have you seen any statistics like that?

BARBER: Of course not. It’s nonsense. It’s Orwellian newspeak.
It seems that neither Mefferd nor Barber researched the readily available documentation of persecution and violence against LGBT people at home and abroad. Had they done so, they would have realized that homophobic and transphobic violence are very real, and that addressing such violence is a human rights priority. Violence against LGBT persons does not merely consist of random, isolated crimes, but is a systematic form of oppression that springs from homophobia and transphobia. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

At such a positive moment in history, when faced with such bigotry, all I can say to the haters is YOU'RE WRONG. It gladdens my heart that LGBT rights are making progress, even as homophobes and transphobes spew venom. Despite their angry rhetoric, human rights are moving forward, and the world will be better for it.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Do the religious right even care about the victims of anti-gay persecution?

Wall of Separation: Clinton's Challenge: Secretary of State Says Religion is No Excuse for Anti-Gay Bias

Think Progress: The Right Goes Wild: Conservatives Condemn Obama Administration for Treating Gay People as Human


  1. So far as I'm concerned, this is one of the few things Obama has done right -- and high time!

  2. The more the Christian Right continues to indulge in this kind of rhetoric, the better. Let them show themselves for what they really are, and alienate the public with their weird obsessions, and force the more gay-tolerant younger generation of evangelicals to get off the fence -- are they in with this insanity or out?

  3. Paul -- I too am proud of the administration for taking this step.

    Infidel753 -- The Religious Right shows its true colors with hateful rhetoric like this. I hope it comes back to haunt them.

  4. Seriously, what planet do Mefferd and Barber live on?

    "global sex cop" LOL!

    I think that Robertson and Mefferd do have somewhat of a point regarding persecuted Christians. As you aptly point out, Ahab, they haven't thought of the fact that the US could defend Christians and LGBT at the same time. (Of course, when you are in the business of producing polarizing rhetoric, you don't have to think too fully about what you say.) However, maybe my memory is just faulty, but I can't remember a recent push from the White House for global religious freedom and elimination of religious persecution in similar magnitude with the President's LGBT speech. Please do correct me if I am wrong, Ahab.

    Anyway, what I find funniest about that line of defense is twofold: first, the anti-government party is whining about the lack of government's involvement in their side of the issue, and second, the Christian church as a whole has more money and power at its disposal than the USA, so if they are angry about not getting protection for persecuted Christians, they should be angry at themselves, and perhaps God too. Of course, for them to act effectively as a whole, they would need to agree on more than just who was nailed to a cross, which has traditionally been very difficult for the church to do... ;-)

  5. Wise Fool -- Yeah, "global sex cop" sounds kind of kinky. o_O

    In all seriousness, I wondered why they were pitting support for LGBT rights against support for persecuted Christian communities, as if the two were mutually exclusive. People can and should be concerned about both.

    You are correct -- on January 16th, the White House proclaimed Religious Freedom Day. See

  6. The "global sex cop" line is another example of how they twist the argument to suit themselves. Like the Religious Right hasn't been trying to police sexual behavior and a woman's right to choose, etc. Utah used to have a "porn czar" for crying out loud. (It was a humorous situation because the "porn czar" was an unmarried woman who by her own admission had never had sex.)

  7. Donna -- Aye, the hypocrisy is mind-blowing. THEY have been policing sexuality and reproductive choices without shame, but they see nothing invasive about this.

  8. The campaign seems to have lit a fire under Obama and his administration. As the campaign progresses, the White House is either more emboldened or more coerced to take bold positions. I'm proud of them for this one.

  9. Nance -- I'm proud of them too for taking this much-needed step.

  10. "In all the stories that I was reading yesterday about this directive, in none of them did I see any breakdown of statistics on the number of homosexuals and transgenders worldwide who are being tortured, persecuted and killed for being gay. Have you seen any statistics like that?"

    If they haven't seen them it's because they haven't been looking.

  11. This is awesome! The RR hate rhetoric is predictable - so I barely skimmed it. (It's too early in the morning to get pissed off by their hateful and arrogant ignorance)

    My personal scorecard:

    Obama: 3
    Any GOP candidate: -1001

  12. Buffy -- Very true. The statistics are out there, freely available to the public. A two-minute Google search is all these people needed to do.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- It's very awesome news, a long-time coming.


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