July 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
White House hosts global LGBT rights ‘dialogue’

Samantha Power, HRC Equality Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power is among those who spoke at a White House “dialogue” on global LGBT rights on June 29, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Activists from around the world gathered at the White House on Wednesday for a “dialogue” on global LGBT rights.

Eric Gitari of Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Asia-Pacific Transgender Network Chair Abhina Aher and OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern are among those who took part in the gathering. Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian refugee who received asylum in the U.S., also attended.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith also spoke about the White House’s efforts to promote LGBT rights abroad in the wake of President Obama’s 2011 directive to agencies that carry out American foreign policy.

“This presidential memorandum sets out to end the ‘no-go zones’ and to expand enjoyment of rights in a deep, deep way,” said Power in her speech. “We have been implementing it, also in a deep way.”

Power noted the U.N. Security Council last August held its first-ever meeting on an LGBT-specific issue that focused on the so-called Islamic State.

Nahas and Stern both spoke at the meeting that the U.S. and Chile co-sponsored.

‘We should all be able to love openly’

Wednesday’s meeting took place less than a month after a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Members of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent hacked Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent Bangladeshi activist who founded the country’s first LGBT magazine, and his friend, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, to death on April 25.

Mannan was working for USAID at the time of his death. He was an employee of the U.S. Embassy in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka for eight years before joining the agency last September.

“[Mannan] was brutally murdered in an act claimed by terrorists,” said Smith in her remarks at the White House. “He was killed because he believed that every person — no matter who they loved or prayed to, no matter what they looked like or what class they were born into — deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. And he was willing to fight for that belief.”

Power noted in her speech that consensual same-sex sexual acts remain criminalized in more than 70 countries around the world.

“We should all be able to love openly without hiding in the shadows,” she said. “Nobody should ever have to have that voice in their head.”

“We’ve got to eliminate the ‘no go zones’ once and for all,” added Power.

Wednesday’s event was not open to the press.

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

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