“The United States remains firmly committed to promoting freedom, opportunity and prosperity everywhere,” she said during a speech at the Newseum in downtown Washington during Human Rights First’s annual Human Rights Summit. “We stand proudly for the rights of women, the LGBT community and minorities.”
Rice noted President Obama spoke in support of LGBT rights during a June press conference in the Senegalese capital with the African country’s president the day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8. Senegal is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.
The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations further highlighted Obama’s meeting with Russian LGBT Network Chair Igor Kochetkov, Olga Lenkova of Coming Out and seven other Russian human rights advocates during the G-20 summit that took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, in September.
Rice noted the U.S. “often can cooperate with Russia” on arms control and other “vital interests,” but she was quick to criticize the Kremlin’s human rights record.
“As we meet these mutual challenges, we don’t remain silent about the Russian government’s systematic efforts to curtail the actions of Russian civil society, to stigmatize the LGBT community,” Rice said. “We deplore selective justice and the prosecution of those who protest the corruption and cronyism that is sapping Russia’s economic future and limiting its potential to play its full role on the world stage.”
Rice also pointed out in her speech the U.S. has backed pro-LGBT resolutions on the U.N. Human Rights Council and in the Organization of American States and the Pan-American Health Organization.
“No one should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love,” she said. “We’re working to lead internationally as we have domestically on LGBT issues.”
Rice noted the Obama administration supports “full equality” for LGBT Americans that includes the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also cited slain San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and the late-former New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, who introduced the first federal gay rights bill in 1975, as among the “champions who fought to bring us closer to ideals” outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that members of the U.N. General Assembly approved 65 years ago this month.
“Continuing their work at home and expanding it around the globe is our great commission as inheritors of their legacy,” Rice said.
She also met with Kaspars Zalitis of the Latvian LGBT advocacy group Mozaika, Jovanka Todorovic of the Labris Lesbian Human Rights Organization in Serbia and other human rights advocates after her speech.
Rice served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 until Obama tapped her to succeed then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in June after he resigned. She backed a resolution in support of LGBT rights the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted in 2011.
She withdrew her name as a potential successor to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late last year amid controversy over the Sept. 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead.