“To achieve lasting global change, we need everyone’s shoulder at the wheel,” she said. “With more voices to enrich and amplify the message – the message that gay rights are straight-up human rights – we can open more minds.”
Rice cautioned that the effort is difficult because laws limiting gay rights in some countries enjoy strong popular support. But she said cultural differences do not excuse human rights violations.
“Governments are responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and it is incumbent upon the state, and on each of us, to foster tolerance and to reverse the tide of discrimination,” Rice said.
Last week, the U.S. imposed visa bans on Ugandan officials who are involved in corruption and are violating the rights of gay people and others. Uganda passed a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties for gay sex and made life sentences possible for those convicted of breaking the law.
During his trip to Africa last year, Obama, while in Senegal, urged African leaders to extend equal rights to gays and lesbians. Senegal’s president, however, pushed back, saying his country “still isn’t ready” to decriminalize homosexuality.
Tuesday’s forum was the latest administrative attempt by Obama to promote gay and lesbian rights both in the United States and abroad. Obama successfully pushed to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military and his administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act years before the Supreme Court took it up.
Earlier this month, Obama announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, the Administration also granted new benefits to same-sex couples, including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law.
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