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Hillary Clinton Continues to Speak Out in Support of Gay Rights at Home and Abroad

December 28, 2009

It’s nice to know that somebody in the administration doesn’t see gay people as little other than a political annoyance (*cough* Obama *cough*).

During her human rights speech at Georgetown before the holidays, she spoke out against the persecution of the glbt community in various nations such as Iran and Uganda. You can watch her speech here. And from the moment she walked through the door at the State Department, Hillary Clinton began working on promoting equal benefits at the State Department. I blogged about her gay rights advocacy here, here, here, here and here.

One hiccup in providing domestic partner benefits to gay couples in the foreign service is that straight couples are threatening to sue for the same benefits. Here is an article from Jezebel on the subject:

Paul Richter of the LA Times writes that Obama responded to Clinton’s advice by signing a memorandum in June giving gay domestic partners of Foreign Service members some — but not all — of the benefits enjoyed by heterosexual spouses. These benefits include paid travel to postings overseas, emergency medical care and evacuation, and education for children. They don’t include regular health insurance or pension benefits, because providing these would have cost the government $56 million in 2010 — apparently too high a price to pay for fairness.

It’s fairness, however, that unmarried straight couples are now citing. They want the same benefits as unmarried gay couples, and one pair has threatened to sue the Foreign Service for discrimination. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is considering the issue, and one State Department official said, “We’re prepared to take that step if that’s what the White House wants to do.”

[snip]

That said, given the prohibitions against gay marriage in this country, it’s hard to view the lack of benefits for straight domestic partners as the primary discrimination here. According to consultant Ilse de Veer, most companies that offer benefits to gay partners also extend them to unmarried straight ones — but those that don’t do so point out that straight couples do have the freedom to marry.

Giving gay couples benefits isn’t necessarily a recognition that all unmarried couples should receive them — although maybe they should. Instead, it’s a (partial) remedy for the fact that most gay people can’t currently marry, and are thus barred from many of the advantages straight married couples take for granted. It would probably be smart and fair for all employers to adopt certain standards of domestic partnership, regardless of gender, rather than tying any benefits to marriage itself — an institution that has taken on political weight far beyond its effectiveness at advancing any sort of family-values agenda. This might be the first step toward making “marriage” a religious and social institution rather than a legal one, something that would probably be good for everybody. But until that happens, the greatest discrimination is against those who are excluded by others’ prejudice from all the benefits currently attendant on marriage — not those who could marry but choose not to do so.

It’s an interesting issue with some good arguments for and against providing domestic partnership benefits to everyone. Obviously, if gay people enjoyed the same marriage benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, this wouldn’t be an issue and I think that’s key- the extension of some (not all) benefits to gay employees in the foreign service was not undertaken to provide everyone with the opportunity to get some of the same benefits as married people but rather to provide a remedy for the fact that one discrete group of people (glbt folks) are denied the fundamental right of marriage and the many, many benefits that go along with that right. In other words, if gay people had the right to marry, there would be no domestic partnership benefits for gay couples at the State Dept. Do you see where I am going with this? Feel free to disagree, but that’s my take on it.

I’m glad to see that the gay community is giving her some much-deserved props for speaking out:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has denounced Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill during an appearance at Georgetown University.

She also addressed anti-gay activity in Iraq and Iran.

“Over this past year, we have elevated into our human rights dialogues and our public statements a very clear message about protecting the rights of the LGBT community worldwide,” Clinton said. “And we are particularly concerned about some of the specific cases that have come to our attention around the world. There have been organized efforts to kill and maim gays and lesbians in some countries that we have spoken out about, and also conveyed our very strong concerns about to their governments — not that they were governmentally implemented or even that the government was aware of them, but that the governments need to pay much greater attention to the kinds of abuses that we’ve seen in Iraq, for example.”

“We are deeply concerned,” she continued, “about some of the stories coming out of Iran. In large measure, in reaction, we think, to the response to the elections back in June, there have been abuses committed within the detention facilities and elsewhere that we are deeply concerned about. And then the…piece of legislation in Uganda, which would not only criminalize homosexuality but attach the death penalty to it. We have expressed our concerns directly, indirectly, and we will continue to do so. The bill has not gone through the Ugandan legislature, but it has a lot of public support by various groups, including religious leaders in Uganda. And we view it as a very serious potential violation of human rights.

“So it is clear that across the world this is a new frontier in the minds of many people about how we protect the LGBT community, but it is at the top of our list because we see many instances where there is a very serious assault on the physical safety and an increasing effort to marginalize people. And we think it’s important for the United States to stand against that and to enlist others to join us in doing so.”

The Ugandan legislation, the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009,” would imprison for life anyone convicted of “the offense of homosexuality”; punish “aggravated homosexuality” — including repeat offenders, or anyone who is HIV-positive and has gay sex — with the death penalty; forbid “promotion of homosexuality” and incarcerate rights defenders who work on LGBT rights; and imprison anyone for up to three years if they fail to report within 24 hours anyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or who supports GLBT human rights.

A Dec. 9 news report by Bloomberg said officials plan to “drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays…to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties.” But on Dec. 13, the bill’s author told Britain’s Observer there is no such plan. On Dec. 22, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that anti-gay Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni privately assured U.S. officials he will veto the bill.

Iraq

In Iraq, according to Human Rights Watch, militias are torturing and murdering men suspected of engaging in gay sex or of not being manly enough, and the authorities have done nothing to stop the killing.

The organization has documented a campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture that began in early 2009 in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, then spread to other locations.

The killers are known to invade homes and grab people on the street. Victims are interrogated for names of others before being murdered. Torture practices include supergluing victim’s anuses shut, then feeding them laxatives.

Iraqi gays say they also face “honor killings” by homophobic parents and brothers who believe “unmanly” behavior shames the family or tribe.

“Hundreds of men may have died,” according to HRW, though the precise figure is “almost impossible” to determine.

Consensual adult gay sex is not illegal under Iraqi law but the militias have claimed to be enforcing Islamic religious law.

Iran

Iran has the death penalty for sodomy and has used it, although in nearly all the cases that have been publicized, the teens and men who were hanged were accused of additional crimes as well, such as homosexual rape.

In a 2008 interview, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied that people are executed solely for having gay sex.

“Homosexuals are not even known who they are to be hanged,” he told the Democracy Now! radio program. “So, we don’t have executions of homosexuals. Of course, we consider it an abhorrent act, but it is not punished through capital punishment.”

Secretary Clinton spoke out two weeks before the White House finally issued a statement condemning Uganda’s draconian anti-gay law:

…Nearly two weeks before the White House statement, on November 30, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the United States should take a stand against marginalizing, penalizing and criminalizing members of the worldwide LGBT community. Then during a December 14 speech at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, she specifically spoke out against the Ugandan bill.

I’d like to add another country to the list of those mentioned above with oppressive, anti-gay, draconian policies towards gay men and lesbians: Honduras. I wrote about this yesterday but I think it bears repeating given what has been taking place there over the past five months:

Honduran Gay human rights activist Walter Trochez was murdered in a drive-by shooting in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on December 13.

Trochez was an active member of the National Resistance Front opposing the government of Roberto Micheletti which was installed by a military coup on June 28. Trochez had previously been detained and beaten by government forces after participating in a demonstration against the coup.

Gay blogger Doug Ireland reports that Trochez “had been trailed for weeks before his murder by thugs believed to be members of the state security forces.”

On December 14, Amnesty International called for “an independent investigation” of the murder. “Amnesty International fears that he may have been targeted because of his human rights work,” they said.

“Walter Trochez told Amnesty International on Friday [December 11] that he had escaped a kidnapping attempt on 4 December after suffering several hours of beatings and threats by masked men. They had interrogated Walter Trochez about individuals opposed to the de facto authorities who seized power following the 28 June coup d’état,” the Amnesty International statement continued.

Trochez told Amnesty International that his kidnappers said, “even if you give us the information we’re going to kill you, we have orders to kill you.”

Trochez had been documenting the Micheletti regime’s attacks on the Honduran LGBT community. In an open letter he released on November 16, Trochez listed nine LGBT Hondurans killed since the coup.

“[T]he LGBTT Rainbow Association, TTT Collective of San Pedro Sula and human-rights activists and defenders, publicly express their outrage that since June 29 this year, [and even] in the hours prior to the coup, there has been an increase in hate [crimes] and homophobic crimes promoted by the Honduran religious hierarchy in collusion with oppressive groups such as the Armed Forces, the National Security Secretariat, private enterprise, pro-life groups, and Opus Dei,” Trochez’s letter said.

Ironically, his letter ended with the words, “As a revolutionary I will be today, tomorrow and forever in the first ranks of my people, all the while knowing that I may lose my life.”

Micheletti came to power after the Honduran military arrested democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya and sent him out of the country. The coup had the support of Honduran business interests and of local Roman Catholic authorities.

I can’t help but wonder if Secretary Clinton was/is aware of the violence against gays and lesbians which took place in the aftermath of the coup and which continues to this day?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:20 pm

    Hillary was always strong on gay rights, unlike Obama.

  2. AmericanBill permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:24 pm

    Congratulations, all you liberals advocated for domestic partnership benefits and now we have a slippery slope. Hillary really stuck her foot in it this time but you are just too stupid to realize it. The same thing will happen with gay marriage- if we let gays marry then what’s next? Incest or having multiple wives or marrying a cousin because its unfair not to be able to.

    Stupid.

    • Carolyn (Rodham) permalink
      December 29, 2009 12:50 am

      Yikes, Bill. You need serious help.

    • Kate permalink
      December 29, 2009 2:55 pm

      O.K. – you really got issues
      Did it ever occur to you that there is a difference ?

      A couple is usually defined as two human beings who love each other – and it doesn’t matter at all if we are talking about a man and a woman or two men or two women.
      There is a reason why incest is prohibited – it is dangerous!
      not neccessarily dangerous for the two who love each other (like brother and sister for example) but dangerous if she gets pregnant (genes are getting mixed up)and there can be a lot of psychological stress on both lovers and their families and friends.(not to mention that it usually doesn’t happen that you fall in love ith someone who is related to you)

      If you cant see the difference between monogamy and polygamy – nobody can help you

  3. December 29, 2009 2:40 am

    AmericanBill,

    Many thanks for your astute observations and eloquent comments. You are a gleaming example of the literate electorate of which Jefferson dreamed, and the social and political democracy in which we all strive to participate.

    Whattaguy! (BIG HINT: Dipping Stacy’s pigtails in the inkwell and making outrageously ridiculous remarks will get you NOWHERE with her. She will not even notice your existence.)

    Signed,
    Stacy’s BIG SISTER

  4. December 29, 2009 7:13 pm

    Great post, Stacy. Thanks for all your good work this year!

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