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Clinton's Gay Rights Speech, Obama's Directive: LGBT Figures React

Hillary Clinton Human Rights Speech

First Posted: 12/07/11 12:38 PM ET Updated: 12/07/11 12:43 PM ET

"Incredible." "Brilliant." "Extraordinary." Those were the words used by a great many on Twitter and Facebook describing Hillary Clinton's speech on LGBT rights in Geneva yesterday to the United Nations Human Rights Council and President Obama’s memorandum tying foreign aid to nations’ records on LGBT rights. More than a few LGBT social networkers described themselves as being "in tears" upon hearing the Clinton speech, and many lamented that Clinton was not president -- and they weren’t giving up on that prospect.

"It was an incredibly brave and brilliant speech that makes me proud to be an American," wrote one commenter, summing up the thoughts of many. "Hillary 2016!!"

There were quite a few dissenters as well, calling the administration’s actions "lip service" heading into an election, and questioning why the president wasn’t pushing harder in this country while pressuring foreign countries. Some pointed to Clinton's –- and the president's –- public opposition to marriage equality as a hypocritical position while they were lecturing other leaders about religion-based discrimination against LGBT people.

"We need our politicians to stop policing the world and focus their efforts on fixing our homeland! I want equal rights and protection. AND I AM AN AMERICAN!! Talk is cheap and it is time for action!!" went one status update on Facebook.

Several prominent LGBT figures gave HuffPost Gay Voices their diverse reactions as well:

Dan Savage, author, columnist and founder of "It Gets Better" Project:

"The check I was planning to write to Obama's reelection campaign just acquired another zero."

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Mattters, former gay advisor to President Clinton:

"I thought Hillary gave a really groundbreaking and important speech, especially in the context of the international setting. But when you think of it, that speech would have worked perfectly here in the United States also, as it addressed so much of the right-wing craziness we have here, without even meaning to. It was very emotional for me, given my personal history working for her and President Clinton.

I think on the policy itself, as set form in President Obama's commendable memorandum, it was not really a new policy as much as a much more focused and forceful articulation of what the administration via the State Department and US AID have been trying to do. But that is the essence of diplomacy. I'm thrilled at the administration's new found willingness to lean into these issues more boldly.

The final thing I'd say is that the speech itself reflected such a deep and emotional understanding of our issues as gay people as to really astound. We rarely see this level of empathy and connection."

Urvashi Vaid, former executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, currently director of the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School:

"Secretary Clinton and President Obama have emphatically added sexual orientation and gender identity to US foreign policy in a meaningful way with the speech and a set of actions and commitments made yesterday. This is a breakthrough moment, achieved by a small group of US activists and allies who have worked quietly for several years to get the government here. The interesting thing is that the organized US movement is now less involved and engaged in advancing the human rights of LGBT people in other parts of the world than the US government."

Novelist, playwright, activist Sarah Schulman:

"Regarding Obama/Clinton LGBT foreign aid restrictions: What if a country has some gay rights but denies some residents fair trials, equal education and basic citizenship and employs racial supremacy, imposes one religious paradigm and runs illegal and immoral wars? Oh wait, that's us."

Bil Browning, founder The Bilerico Project:

"How can we leverage Secretary Clinton's speech and the administration's position to help our own citizens in places that can be just as bigoted and backwards as a third world country? The basic statement that LGBT rights are human rights is historic and affirming, but I also want to see some action locally. I want to see the United States live up to the grand ideals the administration is espousing.

In Indiana there are no bullying, employment, housing, or public accommodations protections. There is no relationship recognition. Indiana still doesn't have a state-wide hate crimes law even. There's no way to charge someone with a hate crime in Indiana; one county sheriff begged the feds to get involved in an anti-gay attack earlier this year to no avail because it didn't meet the requirements to be a federal crime. So when does the federal funding for Indiana get shut off until they improve their record on LGBT rights?"


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