I lived in Africa in 2008, and pushed our equality in the United Nations in Ethiopia -- where I came to live in abject fear for being gay. If anyone had said the United States was going to make LGBT rights a leading issue at the United Nations -- I would have said that was not going to happen. When Hillary did it in 2011, it was unbelievably huge for activists all over the globe fighting for their lives.
After a deep lecture to all nations, she turned to us, to the gay people of the world and said "Where ever you live... Please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustice and dangers you face. .... And you have an ally in the United States of America. And you have millions of friends among the American people," (23:17 minutes in, listen).
In this election year, please share if you've seen it, and watch if you've not, or watch it again. Each time I hear it, I almost can't believe it. The depth. The teaching. The grounding in universal human rights principles, history and profound religious compassion. The comparisons drawn to slavery, female genital mutilation and the refutation of the idea that culture or religion can ever trump human rights. This is a teacher.
We all need to witness this. And show appropriate gratitude and respect.
Hillary 2011, World Stage: "Gay Rights Are Human Rights"!
Hillary teaches with wisdom, and brilliant leadership. Offering not a political talk, but an academic one on the law, addressing every conceivable argument against us, each rebuked under established human rights doctrine. Not just a speech, but rather a thesis teaching how fundamental human rights law and principles clearly apply to LGBT people. It shows the power of two great minds, Hillary from Yale law school, and Obama from Harvard.
Her talk opens, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, with the story of how the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was drafted, the countless hours and a two year process that included input from around the globe. At three in the morning, on December 10th, 1948, after last minute and all-night negotiations, a vote was called. 48 in favor. 8 abstained. 0 against.
And the universal ideal rang out: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
As scholar, Hillary proceeds to explain the basic understanding, that this right is not conferred by government, but by birth right. It doesn't matter what nation or who our leaders are, but "because we are human, we therefor have rights, and because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them."
Within this irrefutable context, Hillary announced to the world that she and President Obama were launching together the first campaign ever by the United states to combat LGBT discrimination worldwide.
No other candidate running for office did this. Hillary Clinton did this.
And in 2011 this was vanguard leadership on the global front where this message is not welcomed. Not at all.
In fact, it comes at a cost to the United States because many nations resent our pushing this issue. They use it to rile up their own people with accusations of U.S. imperialism and cultural warfare. Gay rights are used against the United State to undermine our influence abroad. So raising this issue comes at a political price.
But Hillary, the diplomat, framed it astutely: "I know [this] is sensitive for many people. And that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rests on deeply held personal, political, cultural and religious beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding and humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we can not delay acting."
She then goes on to explain how gay rights and human rights are precisely the same. She explains the extension of human rights to indigenous, children, and people with disabilities, over the last 60 years as we recognized that these groups are entitled to the same protections. This recognition "didn't occur all at once, it came over time," she says, adding that we realized we were affirming "rights people always had." Teach.
Then she delivers the message heard around the globe: "Being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights," (8:15 minutes in). Word.
She even digs into the list the abuses we endure -- the violations of our human rights that we suffer -- like being beaten or killed because of sexual orientation or cultural norms about how men or women should look or behave. "It is a violation," she refrains, to declare it illegal to be gay, or to allow those who hurt us to go unpunished, or when lesbians or transgender women are subject to so called "corrective rape" or forced hormone treatments. It is a violation when people are murdered or forced to flee their nations to save their lives, or denied justice or health care.
"In reality gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths, they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes. And whether we know it or, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends and our neighbors. Being gay is not a western invention, it is a human reality." Truth.
Listen to the speech. This is one for the world history books. By a woman. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, who led the world on human rights when she was our delegate to the United Nations when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written.
As a mother, she adds: "And to people of all nations, I say supporting human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day. From their families, from their neighbors." Compassion.
She then goes on to explain a new task force at the Secretary of State created to implement President Obama's first of its kind, U.S. strategy dedicated to combat abuses against LGBT person abroad. "The President has directed all the U.S. agencies engaged overseas" she proclaims, to work to protect LGBT rights, including an emergency response process for human rights advocates working for LGBT justice. (24:25 minutes in).
She then calls the question: "Be on the right side of history. The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children, people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history. And History honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong. And history reflects that as well. " Boom.
It changed the debate around the world. It changed the trajectory of our liberation. Thank you Hillary Clinton! Brava! Thank you, President Obama! Bravo! Hillary and Obama! Four more years!