Archive for the 'White House' Category

Kerry Likens Uganda Anti-Gay Law to Anti-Semitism and Apartheid

John KerryRepost from Reuters

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday likened new anti-gay legislation in Uganda that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germanyor apartheid South Africa.

“You could change the focus of this legislation to black or Jewish and you could be in 1930s Germany or you could be in 1950s-1960s apartheid South Africa,” Kerry told a group of reporters. “It was wrong there egregiously in both places and it is wrong here,” he added.

Kerry said the legislation signed by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday was “atrocious” and expressed concern at mounting discrimination against gays in 78 countries around the world. Continue Reading

Statement by the White House Press Secretary on Uganda

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality.  As President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.  We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world.

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2014

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.  We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda.  It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.  It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.  At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the Parliament of Sweden

Attorney General Eric HolderAttorney General Eric Holder addressed the Swedish Parliament today and pledged continued support by the U.S. Government to advance the equality of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. Mr. Holder commended Sweden on being a champion of human rights including LGBT rights and quoted from President Obama’s second Inaugural address,

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love that we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

He went on to say,

“I believe one of these struggles is the fight for equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender – or LGBT – citizens.  And that is why my colleagues and I are working alongside leaders like you and people around the world to make a positive difference.”

The Attorney General is visiting Sweden as part of a European trip to attend a G6 ministerial conference in Poland.

You can read the full speech here.

President Obama Announces Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation.

Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 7, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Opening Ceremony.

The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano, President of the University of California, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

The Honorable Robert L. Nabors, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.

The Honorable Billie Jean King, Member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mr. Brian A. Boitano, Olympic gold medalist, figure skating.

Presidential Delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 23, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Closing Ceremony.

The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Ms. Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist, speed skating.

Ms. Caitlin Cahow, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist, women’s ice hockey.

Dr. Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist, speed skating.

U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights

Samantha PowerAs delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

I’d like to welcome you to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and I’d like to begin if I could with just a few remarks before handing the floor to Masha Gessen and Juliet Mphande from Zambia, and they’re going to offer their own opening reflections and then we’re going to have a great discussion together.

As you know, today is International Human Rights Day, and it’s hard to imagine an assemblage of activists who have done more to promote human rights than you all. The leaders in this room have come from places as near as snowy New York and as far as Moscow, Malaysia and Malawi; you’re a wonderfully diverse and, more importantly, an incredibly skilled and rigorous group from whom I am very eager to learn, so I will be very brief in the comments I make here.

Several years ago, when I began working on UN-related issues at the White House, the very organization that has brought many of you here today, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, was being denied consultative status here at the UN. Representatives of the Commission, I don’t have to tell you, sought year after year after year to gain the right to participate fully in the international system, but they were rejected because of what they stood for and whom they sought to protect and represent. We decided that we were not going to sit around and let that continue. And so we fought – and because we could accept nothing less, we eventually won. And when we did, President Obama himself said, quote “with the more full inclusion of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to the values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed.” Continue reading ‘U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights’

Human Rights: Advancing American Interests and Values

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice addressed the participants of the Human Rights First 2013 Summit in Washington DC yesterday, in her speech Amb. Rice stressed that advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to this administrations foreign policy. In her remarks Rice noted that LGBT human rights is an important component in advancing this agenda. Amb. Rice noted,

No one–no one–should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.  So, we are working to lead internationally, as we have domestically, on LGBT issues. This summer, President Obama championed equal treatment for LGBT persons while standing next to the President of Senegal, a country that is making progress on democratic reforms, but like too many nations, still places criminal restrictions on homosexuality.  President Obama met with LGBT and other civil society activists in St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss the restrictions they face in Russia.  At the UN Human Rights Council and in regional organizations, such as the Organization of American States and the Pan American Health Organization, the United States has fought for and won support for resolutions that recognize the rights and protect the safety and dignity of LGBT persons.  We created the Global Equality Fund to protect LGBT rights and those who defend them.

After the speech, Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, said in a statement,

Today’s speech was a welcome affirmation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights at home and abroad. Ambassador Rice made a compelling case for why this effort is squarely in the national interest, arguing that short term trade-offs cannot alter our foundational values, and that respect for human rights is essential to our security.

Following her speech, Ambassador Rice met with human rights defenders from Bahrain, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and the international LGBT community.

Read the full speech here.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Remarks at the LGBT Ministerial Event

Secretary of State John F. Kerry September 26, 2013, New York, New York

SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, thank you very much (inaudible).  Thank you, and I apologize to all of my colleagues for being a little bit late.  I’m sorry about that.

But it is an enormous honor to be part of this event, which is the first of its kind in the history of the United Nations, and I think we should take pride in that.  I thank the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, who I visited with in Washington just last week, and all of our colleagues who are here for joining together in an historic statement.

We really do send a clear and compelling message by coming together today, and it’s not just in support of gays and lesbians around the world; it’s really in support of the founding values of this institution.

When the United Nations was formed, the founders declared this purpose: “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and in the dignity and worth of the human person.”  The human person, not one human person, not certain human persons, but the human person, all people.  And for too long, with respect to affirming the dignity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender persons, this organization fell short of meeting that obligation, as did many entities in the world and many of our countries.  With our work together over the past several years, we have made almost unfathomable progress in the rapidity with which people have come to break down walls of injustice and barriers of prejudice, really quite stunning.  And I think we should all acknowledge that we are living up to, in this initiative and in other efforts that have taken place in the past years, the founding principles of the United Nations, and in many ways, the universal values that organize many of our societies.

For its part, the United States and the Obama Administration is fully committed to this work.  I took personal satisfaction this past year when the United States Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act – and I say personal satisfaction because I was one of 14 senators who voted against that when it was passed – and that prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages.  That decision paves the way for policies and programs that support all married couples, regardless of their sexual orientation.

We also believe the United Nations is a powerful platform to advance our support for the human rights of LGBT persons.  Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights, which are at the foundation of American foreign policy, and I think the foreign policy of most of our colleagues, if not all of our colleagues here.  We all know that as societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, and they become partners, all of whom are joined together by common values and common interests. Continue reading ‘Secretary of State John Kerry’s Remarks at the LGBT Ministerial Event’

Russian Civil Society Leaders Inspire

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaulRepost From Ambassador Michael McFaul 

Despite a packed G-20 schedule filled with meetings on economic issues and the situation in Syria, President Obama also took the time while in St. Petersburg to meet with representatives of Russia’s civil society. He holds such meetings in nearly every country he visits, because, as he told these leaders, he believes that “a country’s strength ultimately comes from its people and that as important as government is — and laws — what makes a country democratic and effective in delivering prosperity and security and hope to people is when they’ve got an active, thriving civil society.” These engagements are an opportunity not only to hear candid views about the country in which these representatives live, but also about the United States.

The meeting in St. Petersburg was no exception. The President, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and I met with a fascinating group of activists that included Boris Pustyntsev, Ivan Pavlov, Yevgeniya Chirikova, Yana Yakoleva, Dmitry Makarov, Igor Kochetkov, Yelena Milashina, Olga Lenkova, and Pavel Chikov. The group represented a broad cross-section of Russian NGOs and activists who work on issues such as human rights, the environment, media freedom, rights of business entrepreneurs, LGBT rights, and fighting corruption, racism, and discrimination.

Our colleagues gave President Obama a strong sense of the challenges facing civil society leaders in Russia today, especially new laws that place restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs and discriminate against the LGBT community. Like others around the world, the President has been following with particular concern the increased climate of intolerance and violence that have accompanied the new law affecting the LGBT community, and he had the chance to hear from two courageous LGBT activists from St. Petersburg who described the challenging environment for their work. Participants urged him to keep human rights, including LGBT rights, on his agenda; to correct mischaracterizations of American policy and laws (especially the false analogy between Russia’s “foreign agent” law and U.S. legislation on lobbying); to empower multilateral organizations to pressure the Russian government to meet its international commitments; and to stand up against discrimination and for freedom of assembly and expression.

The President learned not only about the situation in Russia but also how the Administration’s policies on the environment, whistle-blower protections, and Syria affect the work of civil society activists in Russia. President Obama acknowledged the complexities of balancing national security and individual rights on a variety of issues, but he also expressed faith in the power of American democratic institutions, including a free press, to provide the proper context for resolving specific issues and ultimately to make the American system more democratic. President Obama gave particular attention to the role of civil society in making governments more representative and accountable. He noted his own background as a community organizer, highlighting the significant and important role civil society plays in bettering the lives of ordinary people.

President Obama carefully took notes and responded to all of the questions raised during the meeting. He was clearly energized intellectually and inspired. A meeting planned for forty minutes turned into almost an hour-and-a-half interactive discussion. The President pledged to consider every concrete proposal and later tasked me to follow up on some practical ideas proposed by our roundtable participants.

In the car ride to the Air Force One after the event, the President commented on the articulate, passionate, and practical presentations these leaders had made, and we had a very wide-ranging discussion about civil society in Russia, civil society and human rights around the world, and democracy more generally. After two long days at the G-20, I was struck by how invigorated the President seemed after the discussion.

I thank our Russian participants for such a stimulating session and, like the President, applaud their courageous and important efforts in Russia.

Michael McFaul is Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation.

Remarks by President Obama in Roundtable with Russian Civil Society Leaders

President Barack Obama met with civil society advocates in St. Petersburg today to hear their concerns and to assure them that his administration will continue to press the Russian government to respect human rights. The group of advocates at the roundtable included members of the LGBT community.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I just want to say thank you to all the participants in this roundtable.  This is an incredible and very diverse group of civil society leaders.  And this is something that I really enjoy doing at every country that I visit because it is my firm belief that a country’s strength ultimately comes from its people and that as important as government is — and laws — what makes a country democratic and effective in delivering prosperity and security and hope to people is when they’ve got an active, thriving civil society.

And all of these leaders, ranging from business leaders to youth leaders to environmental leaders, those who are advocating on behalf of a free press, the rule of law, all of them contribute in one way or another to continuing to strengthen Russian society and helping to make progress on behalf of all people.

And the same is true in the United States.  I’m now in government, but I got my start as a community organizer, somebody who was working in what would be called an NGO in the international community.  And the work I was doing was helping poor communities have a voice in what was happening in their lives.  And I got elected as President by engaging people at a grassroots level.

So the kinds of activities that are represented here are critically important to Russia’s development, and I’m very proud of their work.  And I think it is important for us to remember that in every country — here in Russia, in the United States, around the globe — that part of good government is making sure that we’re creating a space for civil society to function effectively:  freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, making sure that people can join together and make common cause around the issues that they care deeply about.

So I appreciate you taking the time.  I’m not going to do all the talking here.  I want to spend most of my time listening. But I want to thank you again and I hope all of you continue the good work.


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