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On eve of meeting with Pope Francis, Obama lectures Russia on LGBT rights

On eve of meeting with Pope Francis, Obama lectures Russia on LGBT rights
Pablo Martinez Monsivais,  APPresident Barack Obama in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
President Barack Obama in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

BRUSSELS, Belgium — President Barack Obama on Wednesday again took aim at Russia’s anti-gay laws following talks with European Union and NATO leaders on Russia’s military-backed annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

“We believe in human dignity – that every person is created equal, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or who you love, or where you come from,” Obama said speaking before a gathering of European leaders, which included Belgium’s King Philippe, and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

Making a case against what he characterized as Russian aggression, Obama reiterated his criticism of the law passed last summer that outlaws the promotion of “non-traditional” relationships.

“Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights,” he said. “Instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others, we can affirm the aspirations that we hold in common. That’s what will make America strong. That’s what will make Europe strong That’s what makes us who we are.”

The president’s speech and his argument that Western ideals and values of openness and tolerance would endure long past repression, comes a day before he’s scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City.

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The White House said that president hopes that the visit will focus on the shared commitment of both the Vatican and the U.S. to helping the poor and disadvantaged persons across the globe.

In interviews over the past year, Pope Francis has taken a more relaxed position on church policies that are in opposition to gay rights.

Last June, the Pope made statements that he refused to judge gay priests and also said that the church should not “interfere” in the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians.

Earlier this month, in a wide-ranging interview with an Italian newspaper, Francis — while reaffirming the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage — suggested that the Church could support some types of civil unions. He noted that state-sanctioned unions can result from the need to ensure rights such as access to health care.

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