September 29, 2015 at 12:18 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Obama notes LGBT rights in U.N. General Assembly speech

National Prayer Breakfast, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama on Sept. 28, 2015, noted LGBT rights during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. (Image courtesy of YouTube)

President Obama on Monday made a broad reference to LGBT rights during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

“In this country, everybody can contribute, everybody can participate no matter who they are, or what they look like, or who they love,” said Obama. “That’s what makes us strong.”

Obama devoted a significant portion of his speech to the Syrian civil war that began more than four years ago.

He described the Islamic State — which has executed at least 30 men accused of engaging in sodomy in Syria and Iraq — as “an apocalyptic cult.” Obama also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for his support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an agreement between the war-torn country, Iraq and Iran to share intelligence about the Sunni extremist group.

Obama during his speech referred to ending “the scourge of HIV/AIDS.” He also indicated his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial U.S.-led pan-Pacific trade agreement.

“We can promote growth through trade that meets a higher standard,” said Obama. “And that’s what we’re doing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade agreement that encompasses nearly 40 percent of the global economy; an agreement that will open markets, while protecting the rights of workers and protecting the environment that enables development to be sustained.”

Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly took place a day after he spoke at the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT gala in New York. Pope Francis on Sept. 25 delivered an address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday told the global body that the people in his country “are not gays.”

“We equally reject attempts to prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions and beliefs,” he said.

The U.N. Human Rights Council in September 2014 adopted a resolution against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination that Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay introduced. The U.N. Security Council last month hosted its first-ever meeting on an LGBT-specific issue, which focused on the Islamic State’s persecution of LGBT Syrians and Iraqis.

Kerry meets with Ugandan president

Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend met with several of his foreign counterparts who had traveled to New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

Kerry on Saturday met with Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov, Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby in a statement said Kerry and his counterparts from the five former Soviet republics discussed “common challenges to security and economic development.” They did not discuss efforts to ban the promotion of so-called gay propaganda in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

“Secretary of State Kerry is a leading voice in support for LGBT rights, and is driving policy to advance human rights for LGBT individuals across the world,” a State Department official told the Washington Blade after the meeting.

Kerry on Sunday met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Kirby in a statement said the two men discussed the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group that led a bloody insurgency against the Ugandan government from 1986-2006, and efforts to fight Islamic extremists in Somalia. Kerry and Museveni also discussed efforts to respond to conflicts in South Sudan and Burundi.

Museveni in 2014 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act under which those convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts faced life in prison. The Constitutional Court of Uganda last summer struck down the statute, but lawmakers have begun to consider a bill that seeks to regulate non-governmental organizations that operate in the country.

The State Department on Monday did not immediately respond to the Blade’s question on whether Kerry discussed the aforementioned issues with Museveni.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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