Presidential Memorandum — International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

Published: December 6, 2011

The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is
central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights. I
am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT
persons around the world whether it is passing laws that
criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful
LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their
perceived sexual orientation. That is why I declared before heads of
state gathered at the United Nations, "no country should deny people
their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up
for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere." Under my
Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking
action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons
everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all
people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to
bear to vigorously advance this goal.

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to
ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect
the human rights of LGBT persons. Specifically, I direct the
following actions, consistent with applicable law:

Section 1. Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct
Abroad. Agencies engaged abroad are directed to strengthen existing
efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign
governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat
discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT
status or conduct.

Sec. 2. Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
Those LGBT persons who seek refuge from violence and persecution face
daunting challenges. In order to improve protection for LGBT refugees
and asylum seekers at all stages of displacement, the Departments of
State and Homeland Security shall enhance their ongoing efforts to
ensure that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers have equal access to
protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum.
In addition, the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security
shall ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal
Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the
protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, including by providing
to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the

Federal Government has the ability to identify and expedite
resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection
needs.

Sec. 3. Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance
Nondiscrimination. Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance,
and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular
Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil
society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the
human rights of LGBT persons.

Sec. 4. Swift and Meaningful U.S. Responses to Human Rights Abuses of
LGBT Persons Abroad. The Department of State shall lead a standing
group, with appropriate interagency representation, to help ensure the
Federal Government’s swift and meaningful response to serious
incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.

Sec. 5. Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against
LGBT Discrimination. Multilateral fora and international
organizations are key vehicles to promote respect for the human rights
of LGBT persons and to bring global attention to LGBT issues.
Building on the State Department’s leadership in this area, agencies
engaged abroad should strengthen the work they have begun and initiate
additional efforts in these multilateral fora and organizations to:
counter discrimination on the basis of LGBT status; broaden the number
of countries willing to support and defend LGBT issues in the
multilateral arena; strengthen the role of civil society advocates on
behalf of LGBT issues within and through multilateral fora; and
strengthen the policies and programming of multilateral institutions
on LGBT issues.

Sec. 6. Reporting on Progress. All agencies engaged abroad shall
prepare a report within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, and
annually thereafter, on their progress toward advancing these
initiatives. All such agencies shall submit their reports to the
Department of State, which will compile a report on the Federal
Government’s progress in advancing these initiatives for transmittal
to the President.

Sec. 7. Definitions. (a) For the purposes of this memorandum,
agencies engaged abroad include the Departments of State, the
Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human
Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge
Corporation, the Export Import Bank, the United States Trade
Representative, and such other agencies as the President may
designate.

(b) For the purposes of this memorandum, agencies involved with
foreign aid, assistance, and development include the Departments of
State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, and
Homeland Security, the USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation,
the Export Import Bank, the United States Trade Representative, and
such other agencies as the President may designate.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or
benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by
any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or
entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish
this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA
 

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