August 3, 2015 at 7:09 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Obama urges young African leaders to support gay rights

National Prayer Breakfast, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama spoke out for gay rights during the YALI summit. (Image courtesy of YouTube)

President Obama made comments Monday similar to public remarks he made in favor of gay rights during his recent trip to Africa, telling a group of young African leaders anti-gay discrimination is the same as racial discrimination.

Obama made the remarks in the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C. during a town hall as part of a three-day summit for the Young African Leaders Initiative, which brings together selected young individuals from sub-Saharan Africa to meet with the U.S. president as well as American entrepreneurs, government officials and civil society representatives.

In response to a question from a summit participant who said she was from Kenya and individuals with albinism in Africa are being killed so their body parts can be harvested for ritual purposes, Obama said violence against people because of skin pigmentation is “tomfoolery” and needs to stop.

“The same, by the way, is true for sexual orientation,” Obama added. “I spoke about this in Africa, and everybody is like, oh, oh, we don’t want to hear that. But the truth of the matter is, is that if you’re treating people differently just because of who they love and who they are, then there’s a connection between that mindset and the mindset that led to racism, and the mindset that leads to ethnic conflict. It means that you’re not able to see somebody else as a human being.”

Hinting at the long history of oppression in Africa against black people because of European imperialism, Obama said, “You can’t, on the one hand, complain when somebody else does that to you, and then you’re doing it to somebody else.”

“You can’t do it,” Obama added. “There’s got to be some consistency to how you think about these issues. And that’s going to be up to young people — because old people get stuck in their ways.”

Anti-gay sentiment is high in Africa and many countries criminalize same-sex relations. Nonetheless, the audience of young African leaders seemed to welcome Obama’s remarks against anti-gay discrimination, applauding the comments when he finished.

During his visit to Africa last month, Obama spoke out publicly in favor of gay rights during a news conference in Kenya — even though public officials warned him not to bring up the subject when visiting the country. Last week, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told the Washington Blade during a news conference Obama also spoke out privately during meetings in favor of gay rights when touring Africa.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said Obama’s remarks during the young American leaders summit were a good addition to his comments overseas.

“And this really is a hallmark of President Obama’s approach – lifting up voices and communities, challenging all of us to see the humanity in others and to recognize the human rights we all share,” Bromley said. “I’m glad he raised LGBT issues again today in his meeting with young African leaders, and that he spoke about it on his recent trip to Africa. It’s important to see him raising it so consistently, and in the context of the broad range of human rights concerns that we have in every region, including Africa.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • jake

    It is fantastic that Obama is reaching out to the black community to try and encourage gay rights.

  • Norman Dostal

    Fortunately, many blacks will listen and be influenced by Obama. Conversely, people who follow sometimes follow wrong- headed thinking (ie Africans bewitched by evil Christian missionaries who brainwashed them into hating gays!). Our leaders are indeed responsible for the paths they illuminate.

  • lnm3921

    Our public policy needs to change to stop giving countries that oppress, torture, murder and marginalize GLBT people from receiving financial aid from us. Just like social conservatives tried to suspend aid to countries that provide information on safe sex practices instead of preaching abstinence.
    We should also not promote tourism to such countries. How many American travel companies still offer tours to countries that make it a crime to be GLBT? Why do we not call them on it and demand they promote tourism that respects the human rights and dignity of all people?

  • Theo McKinney

    ON RENDERING UNTO GOD AND CAESAR

    To ALL you “religious” folks that everyone has been pandering to for FAR TOO LONG: Jesus said two things that call out your meanness and prejudice as 100% UN-godly:

    1) “Love thy neighbor, as you would have them love you”, an oft-repeated message from the God of Christianity.

    Then, in Jesus’ famous marketplace rage, where HE WAS CALLING OUT PHARISEES FOR SPEAKING IN PLACE OF GOD, AND TELLING EVERYONE THEY ‘KNOW WHAT GOD MEANT BY THIS OR THAT…”

    That’s when he explicitly commanded them to:

    2) “render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s, and to God, what is God’s”.

    We have no choice but to understand “Caesar” as being the govt in place, and our government in place, says “Equality and Justice for All”, “All men are created equal”, and there is a right to pursue happiness under the Laws set forth by the constitution.

    So let’s review: “Equality and justice for all”, versus “Love thy Neighbor”.

    LOOK AGAIN FALSE PROPHETS: SAME MESSAGE. NO CONFLICT.

    Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

    (doesn’t take a Biblical scholar, DOES it.)

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