Worldwide, Gay Rights are Human Rights

Yesterday, President Barack Obama released a memo directing American agencies to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights abroad. The memo specifically directs agencies to consider a given nation’s human rights record on the LGBT community when the agencies are allocating foreign aid. This announcement comes not long after the announcement of a similar measure by the British government in which Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to dock foreign aid from Commonwealth nations that continue their bans on homosexuality.

In the face of the growing persecution of LGBT people across the globe, these actions are long overdue and welcome developments. Over the past year, the Ugandan parliament has repeatedly, and seriously, considered legislation that would mandate the death penalty for any person convicted of “homosexual conduct,” even though homosexuality is already illegal in that country – and punishable with a sentence of life imprisonment.

In addition, Nigeria is considering a bill that would ban same-sex marriages, as well as advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community, despite the fact that homosexuality is already illegal. Same-sex sexual activity is punishable by death (by stoning) in a dozen of the country’s states; nationwide, it carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, this past month the legislative assembly of St. Petersburg, Russia, considered legislation that would ban “the promotion of homosexuality, transsexuality and paedophilia to minors.”

For a long time, Reform Jews have envisioned governments free not only of the stain of discrimination but also of association with those who practice discrimination. More than two centuries ago, the warden of a Rhode Island Congregation, Moses Seixas, wrote a letter to George Washington, in which he spoke of “a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” By taking into consideration the treatment of LGBT people in the United States’ allocation of foreign aid, today’s government is bringing this vision one step closer to reality.

Photo courtesy of the International Federation of Social Workers.

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Noah Baron

About Noah Baron

Noah Baron is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is from Princeton Junction, NJ, and a graduate of Columbia University.


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