Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a bold step for U.S. foreign policy (and common decency) by declaring in front of the United Nations yesterday that it is a "violation of human rights" to commit violence or discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation. In a moving speech to the U.N.'s human rights group in Geneva, Clinton tackled many of the common stereotypes leveled at gay people and called on other nations to eliminate laws that criminalize or marginalize homosexuals.
Saturday is the anniversary of the passage of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, one of the true landmark achievements of the United Nations, which provided the opportunity for Clinton to challenge other governments to defend gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. She was quick to admit that her own country does not have the best record on these matters — it is worth noting that her speech quiet pointedly did not mention gay marriage — but announced new initiatives by the Obama administration to combat discrimination around the world, including a "Global Equality Fund" that will support human rights groups that protect gay people.
Clinton urged the gathered leaders to “be on the right side of history” and said that LGBT men and women "have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people." She spelled out her case in one of the highlights of the speech:
This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.
You can watch the whole video below or read the full transcript, via The Huffington Post.