At a background briefing held today in advance of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Human Rights Day Address about global LGBT equality, the issue of marriage -- and President Obama's lack of support for marriage equality -- was raised twice.
From the transcript:
QUESTION: How does the Administration reconcile the fact that the President won’t explicitly endorse marriage for gay couples at home, but here you are touting human rights, of which marriage is one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think this – both the speech and our global policy – is dealing with the first iteration of questions. You don’t attack, you don’t commit a violent act, against somebody because of their sexual orientation. You don’t criminalize conduct. And so we’re here trying to, again, broadly speaking, identify a human right, a global human right, which starts with those fundamental principles and which is consistent with everything we’re doing across the board.
QUESTION: To go back to Nicole’s question and your comment about leading, the President has not supported, or has not been explicit in supporting or calling for gay marriage, right? And are there not still statutes on the books in certain American states that criminalize some LGBT conduct? So why should anybody listen to the United States of America on this, if its own union is still far from perfect on these issues?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We always say that we’re going to lead by example, and at the same time we are always trying to form a more perfect union. We – the last U.S. states repealed laws criminalizing LGBT conduct in 2003. So we are – what we’re asking the world to do is to not violate people’s rights by attacking them or by criminalizing conduct.
The State Department official is incorrect here. Although Lawrence v. Texas declared Texas's Homosexual Conduct Law unconstitutional in 2003, Tim Murphy at Mother Jones detailed earlier this year how Texas's law remains on the books. Later, Carlos Maza at Equality Matters reported that many states that had sodomy laws in 2003 have not formally removed them from their books.
More broadly, several people and organizations -- including Get Equal -- highlighted ongoing inequality in the U.S. as a problem all the more apparent when a U.S. leader like Clinton calls for an end to LGBT discrimination before a global audience.