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U.S. To Consider Treatment of Gays In Foreign Aid

Dan Watson |
December 6, 2011 | 11:19 a.m. PST

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(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)

The United States will use foreign aid to promote gay rights abroad, and fight attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality, the Obama administration announced on Tuesday.

In a memo released by the White House, President Barack Obama directs US agencies working abroad, like the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, to aid gays and lesbians who face human rights violations. 

"The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States' commitment to promoting human rights," Obama said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press, it "marked the first U.S. government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad."

Strict laws against same-sex sexual activity are common in the Middle East and Africa, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, two of the largest recipients of U.S. aid.

According to the New York Times:

"The new initiative holds the potential to irritate relations with some close American allies that ban homosexuality, including Saudi Arabia."

Homosexuality can be punished by death in Saudi Arabia, as it can in Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

The move furthers Obama's commitment to promoting gay rights. Obama has supported the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" — a military policy banning an openly gay service member — and has ordered his administration to stop enforcing a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. 

It also could have political motives behind it too, according to the NY Times:

"With campaigning already under way ahead of the 2012 presidential election, Mr. Obama’s action is bound to be viewed through a political lens, as well.  While the gay community tends to vote Democratic and would seem to be a natural ally of his, and has generally been supportive, he has faced criticism for failing to clearly support a right to same-sex marriages."

 

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