Metro Weekly

Susan Rice reaffirms U.S. commitment to LGBT rights abroad

Photo: Susan Rice and Barack Obama. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Photo: Susan Rice and Barack Obama. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice called for a united front Tuesday to combat a growing tide of anti-LGBT animus around the globe, describing the protection of LGBT people abroad as one of the most challenging human rights issues the U.S. faces today.

Speaking to a White House forum on global LGBT rights, Rice stated that it “offends our common humanity when men or women anywhere in the world are beaten or abused, or when individuals anywhere have their rights restricted because of who they are.”

“And it doesn’t just harm those who are targeted,” Rice continued. “It rends the bonds that knit society together. Trust recedes; suspicion spreads. Entire countries are deprived of vital contributions from citizens in minority groups.”

Rice noted the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots as reminders of how far the United States has come and that change only comes from passionate people willing to sacrifice.

With a growing number of countries permitting discrimination against LGBT people, Rice stated that President Barack Obama has specifically directed that the promotion and protection of LGBT rights be a key plank of American diplomacy and foreign assistance.

“We’ve made it clear that the United States will respond appropriately when nations target their own citizens,” Rice said.

Indeed, last week the Obama administration announced additional actions against Uganda, including cuts in aid and restricting entry to the U.S. by certain Ugandan officials, for the implementation of an anti-LGBT law earlier this year. The move, advocates say, sets a precedent for dealing with other countries considering laws that target LGBT people. But targeting of LGBT people stretches beyond Uganda. Noting recently enacted anti-LGBT laws in Nigeria and Russia, including proposed legislation in Russia that would allow the government to take children away from same-sex parents, Rice stated that there are almost 80 countries where “discrimination against LGBT citizens is enshrined in law, and that number threatens to grow.” Moreover, in seven countries same-sex relations are punishable by death — a number that could grow to eight if Brunei continues with its phrasing in of Islamic law.

“Prejudice has deep roots, and the laws limiting gay rights frequently enjoy strong popular support,” Rice said. “Abuse is often encouraged by custom and by local authorities who look the other way, or worse. But cultural differences do not excuse human rights violations. They do not justify criminal behavior. Governments are responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and it is incumbent upon the state, and upon each of us, to foster tolerance and reverse the tide of discrimination.” 

Read Rice’s full remarks on the following page.

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.