January 13, 2016 at 8:07 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Kerry describes Islamic State as ‘barbaric’ in foreign policy speech

John Kerry, State Department, gay news, Washington Blade, GLIFAA

Secretary of State John Kerry in a foreign policy speech at the National Military University in Southwest D.C. on Jan. 13, 2016, described the Islamic State group as “barbaric” He did not specifically reference U.S. efforts to promote LGBT rights abroad during his remarks. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday did not specifically mention LGBT rights in a speech that outlined the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities for 2016.

Kerry repeatedly condemned the Islamic State, a Sunni militant group known as Daesh, in his remarks that he delivered at the National Military University in Southwest D.C.

“There’s nothing civilized about Daesh,” said Kerry. “It’s barbaric.”

Islamic State militants have publicly executed dozens of men in Syria and Iraq who they accused of committing sodomy.

A report indicates a teenage boy was thrown from a roof in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor on Jan. 1 after he was found engaging “in a homosexual relation with” a prominent Islamic State militant. OutRight Action International and MADRE, a global women’s advocacy organization, in 2014 noted that LGBT Iraqis who live under the control of the Sunni militant group are likely “at imminent risk of death.”

Advocates in Lebanon with whom the Washington Blade has spoken indicate that Islamic State militants have burned men alive they suspected were gay. One report says members of the Sunni extremist group hanged a transgender woman in Syria by her breasts.

“Daesh is literally the embodiment of evil,” said Kerry.

‘Pretty nasty politics’ around refugee resettlement

Kerry spoke a day after President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address.

The former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in his speech announced the expansion of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that would allow people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for refugee status in their respective countries. Kerry also defended the White House’s efforts to allow additional refugees to resettle in the U.S.

Three out members of Congress — U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) are among the members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for a bill in the wake of last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris that would temporarily suspend the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the U.S. Donald Trump a few weeks later sparked widespread outrage among LGBT rights advocates and others with his proposed ban on Muslims from entering the country.

The Republican presidential candidate made his announcement less than a week after Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire inside a social service center in San Bernardino, Calif. The mass shooting that Obama described as an “act of terrorism” left 14 people dead and more than 20 others injured.

“This critical work has been conducted against a backdrop of some pretty nasty politics, with people making statements on the refugee issue that seem designed to scare our citizens but have no basis in the facts,” said Kerry, referring to the resettlement of refugees in the U.S.

“Let me be very, very clear: We can both maintain the highest security standards and live up to our best traditions as Americans by welcoming those in need of help to our great country,” he added. “That is who we are. That is what we do. That is how we wrote our history. That’s how we became who we are. And we dare not turn our backs on future people, generations seeking the same set of opportunities. We have the ability to protect ourselves even as we remain a country that welcomes migration.”

U.S. has spent $41 million to promote LGBT rights abroad

Kerry in his speech defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade agreement that would include three countries — Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore — in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. He also cited “enormous progress” in curbing HIV/AIDS in Africa.

“We are on the brink now suddenly of perhaps seeing the first generation that will be born AIDS-free in Africa,” said Kerry.

Obama in a 2011 presidential memorandum ordered agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights.

A spokesperson for the State Department told the Blade last month in response to a controversial New York Times article about U.S. efforts in support of LGBT rights in Africa that it and the U.S. Agency for International Development have spent nearly $41 million “specifically to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons globally” since 2012.

Kerry in February 2015 announced the appointment of Randy Berry as the first special U.S. envoy to promote global LGBT rights. Uruguay last November became the latest country to join the Global Equality Fund, a U.S. initiative that seeks to promote LGBT rights around the world.

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

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