Hillary Clinton’s soaring speech on international LGBT issues was game changing. An historic address of this magnitude was desperately needed to counter the rising tide of backwards and barbaric nations that had recently been persecuting LGBT people to distract from their glaring problems.
“I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today,” said Clinton to a packed auditorium of human rights activists who gathered in Geneva for International Human Rights Day. “I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
The list of countries that recently declared war on sexual minorities include: Russia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Iran, and Zimbabwe. For the contemptible despots who run these underachieving nations, fomenting homophobia makes political sense. By turning homosexuals into bogeymen these rulers can conceal their corruption and appear moral through the blessings of craven clergy.
If the worldwide attacks on LGBT people seem deliberate and coordinated, it is because they very well may be. In author Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family, he reveals that ambitious American evangelicals are working to surround The United States, Canada, and Western Europe with fundamentalist regimes – using homosexuality as a key wedge issue to gain power. Researchers Rachel Tabachnick and Bruce Wilson have also documented that a radical and sprawling evangelical group, The New Apostolic Reformation, has infiltrated many countries and exported anti-LGBT hate.
It has been greatly disturbing to witness the war on LGBT people unfolding in recent weeks. I had privately fretted that these AHEM’s (American Hate Exporting Movements) were further along in their dubious and dangerous designs than people realized. I was also concerned that the American government would back off challenging international homophobia in an election year. After all, the Obama administration surely did not want to be browbeaten as anti-faith by phony martyrs and their false claims of religious discrimination.
However, something drastic needed to happen to turn back the tide of violence and discrimination that plagued these “loser nations.” The U.S. had to make it crystal clear that those exporting hate were not representing our government. Instead, these zealots were operating a shadow foreign policy that undermined America’s interests.
President Barack Obama boldly stepped into this bloody vacuum and provided desperately needed leadership and moral clarity. He issued an incredible memorandum directing all agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.” This was followed by Clinton’s moving speech that was as notable for its directness, as it was for its depth.
Usually in such addresses we get diplomatic drivel that satisfies no one and accomplishes little. But today’s actions by the administration and Clinton’s speech were different. The words were spoken with true vision and encrusted in values. There was clarity and passion, and no one was left wondering where our country stood on the rights of LGBT people.
This was one of those times where our nation demonstrated true international leadership and made me incredibly proud to be an American. It was stirring to witness our country act decisively as force for moral good. There was no patronizing that relegated the LGBT community to the role of liberalism’s unwanted stepchild. There were no carefully crafted and focus grouped code words that sugarcoated the abuses – just the honest truth spoken from the heart.
“It is a 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,” said Clinton in her speech. “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.”
The beauty of Clinton’s talk was that it was highly educational. It forcefully challenged the ignorant stereotypes and vicious lies disseminated by despots and their American evangelical patrons.
“Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality,” Clinton said. “And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do.”
Needless to say, the leaders of AHEM’s and anti-LGBT politicians went nuts. “This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country,” said failing presidential candidate Rick Perry, who shocked people by putting a complete sentence together. Perry conveniently failed to mention that Clinton and Obama are both people of deep faith.
The stunning events in Geneva mark the moment Barack Obama secured a national LGBT vote for his 2012 re-election campaign. Today we felt hope – but more importantly, we witnessed monumental change.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”