“The recent enactment of Russia’s anti-propaganda law is as outrageous as it is dangerous,” she said as she opened a meeting with more than 30 LGBT rights advocates at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. “It is a reminder that whether the struggle of equality takes the form of equal employee benefits or protection from being imprisoned or executed, we have a long way to go.”
Power also noted during her speech that coincides with the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that 78 countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Homosexuality remains punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and northern Nigeria.
“To criticize the criminalization of LGBT status is not cultural imperialism,” said Power. “To deny gays and lesbians the right to live freely and to threaten them with discrimination and even death is not a form of moral or religious Puritanism. It’s in fact barbarism.”
Power also stressed the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela last week “reminds us of what one fearless and passionate voice can achieve when raised in a righteous cause.” Her comments came hours after President Obama made a veiled reference to LGBT rights during his speech at the memorial service for the anti-Apartheid champion in Johannesburg.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice last week said in a speech she gave during Human Rights First’s annual summit in D.C. that LGBT rights remain an essential part of U.S. foreign policy.
Lesbian Russian journalist Masha Gessen and Juliet Mphande, executive director of Rainka Zambia, spoke during the meeting with Power before the Washington Blade and the handful of reporters from other media outlets were asked to leave the room. Turkish Parliamentarian Melda Onur, Wilson Castañera of the Colombian LGBT advocacy group Caribe Afirmativo and Center for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley were among those who also attended the roundtable.
Gay former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Network and others are scheduled to take part in a panel at the U.N. later on Tuesday that gay MSNBC anchor is scheduled to moderate.