DeMint wrong on gay rights

Repost from the Post and Courrier

Written by Michael Guest, Senior Advisor to The Council for Global Equality

The contrast could not be starker.

In a Human Rights Day speech in Geneva last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton placed the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide within the broader international framework of universal human rights.

Later that month in Washington, the nomination of Maria Carmen Aponte as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador was voted down — partly over objections that she had followed administration policy in defending the fundamental freedoms of LGBT people in that country.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., led the Republican onslaught against Aponte, whose initial nomination he opposed a year ago on entirely different grounds.

That shift of reasoning, of course, raises questions as to his true motivation.

But he and others who blocked Aponte’s nomination would do well to read Clinton’s speech.

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same,” she said. “… Being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”Indeed, the case for respecting the rights of LGBT people in El Salvador and beyond is grounded in principles that are at the heart of both America’s founding and U.S. foreign policy.

When individuals are denied their right to form LGBT advocacy organizations, or to march freely in gay pride parades, they are denied basic freedoms of speech, association and assembly that Americans cherish and the United States traditionally has led in supporting.

When police arbitrarily detain and humiliate transgender citizens, or refuse to protect peaceful LGBT protesters from homophobic bystanders, they deny LGBT citizens the equal protection under the law that is core to genuine democracy.

When government officials engage in hate speech directed against gays, they disrespect their leadership obligations, and share responsibility for abuses and murders that have, in some cases, followed.

And when governments pass laws that criminalize same-sex relations and relationships, they infringe on privacy freedoms that our Supreme Court, and courts in other democratic nations, have sought to protect.

United States foreign policy long has defended these principles and freedoms for women, religious minorities, and disfavored ethnic groups.

But principles are absolute, not something to be applied selectively. They cannot be defended for some people and denied to others.

Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Aponte understand this.

Sen. DeMint clearly does not. His ignorance can only further tarnish our country’s leadership role in promoting democratic values, accountable government, and respect for human rights abroad.

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