President Obama proclaimed on Saturday “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights are human rights” in a statement observing the annual International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia.
“We take this opportunity to reaffirm that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are human rights, to celebrate the dignity of every person, and to underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love,” Obama said.
The phrase “gay rights are human rights” was made famous by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in her former capacity as secretary of state during a 2010 Pride speech and has been used since that time by the Obama administration to talk about international human rights.
“We work toward this goal every day,” Obama continued. “Here at home, we are working to end bias-motivated violence, combat discrimination in the workplace, and address the specific needs of transgender persons. Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach.”
Obama issued the statement on the same day National Security Adviser Susan Rice condemned anti-gay remarks from Gambia President Yahya Jemmeh in which he pledged to slit the throats of gay men in his country.
“There is much more to do, and this fight for equality will not be won in a day,” Obama added. “But we will keep working, at home and abroad, and we will keep fighting, for however long it takes until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights.”
On Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden issued his own statement, saying the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia is a time to reflect on progress the country has made on LGBT rights.
“My father taught me the simple notion that everyone, everywhere is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Biden said. “When it comes to LGBT people, that simple proposition has been painfully difficult to accomplish over the years. But in the last decade, thanks to the astounding bravery of the LGBT community and those who have championed their cause, the United States has made remarkable progress toward the ultimate goal of equality in law and in life. Our progress remains incomplete, but the momentum has shifted in the right direction.”
Biden acknowledged significant obstacles remain in protecting LGBT people from human rights violations overseas.
“Progress has also been made in many places around the world,” Biden said. “But in too many places, life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals is actually getting worse. In too many places, LGBT community members face violence with impunity, mistreatment by police, the denial of healthcare, or religious condemnation and social isolation.”
Biden issued the statement as he’s been making outreach efforts to the LGBT community, including by speaking at the annual OutGiving conference for high-dollar LGBT donors and before LGBT activists at a Human Rights Campaign conference.
“The best mechanism to confront this hatred is to speak up in favor of universal human rights. Supportive voices must be heard,” Biden said. “Today and every day, let us continue to defend the rights of LGBT people, whether from nearby cities or far-off villages. We cannot rest until everyone receives the dignity, respect, and equal treatment under the law that all people deserve.”