It’s been close to a month since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a Constitutional right to marry, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. And I, along with tens of millions of Americans celebrated this beautiful moment for our nation.
We have come far here in the U.S., in terms of ensuring freedom and equality for lesbian and gay Americans. To have the highest court in the land recognize the “dignity” in all people regardless of whom they love was quite literally breath taking. And although we have many more struggles to overcome in terms of LGBT rights here in America, it was a joyous moment for us as an LGBT community and as a nation.
As the leader of a nation that represents freedom and equality to the world President Obama has an obligation to condemn the oppression and human rights violations that LGBT people experience, not just in Kenya but around the world.
But while we are celebrating marriage equality here in the U.S., many LGBT people around the world don’t even experience basic recognition or safety in their communities. Being gay is illegal in over 70 countries across the globe and is punishable by jail time and even death in some places.
Laws criminalizing homosexuality around the world have led to widespread homophobia and violence against LGBT people. These anti-gay laws and the debate locally around these laws have fueled ignorance and hatred toward LGBT people, which has resulted in LGBT people being physically unsafe and marginalized in their own communities. The marginalization of LGBT people due to these laws often has a ripple effect on the individual’s health and wellbeing, including their ability to be contributing members of their communities. In short anti-homosexuality polices are deeply harmful and violate human rights.
Later this week, President Obama will travel to Kenya, a country that criminalizes homosexuality. It is my hope that while in Kenya, President Obama will speak out on LGBT rights.
As the leader of a nation that represents freedom and equality to the world President Obama has an obligation to condemn the oppression and human rights violations that LGBT people experience, not just in Kenya but around the world. The President’s vocal support and advocacy for LGBT rights while Kenya, a place where it is illegal to be lesbian or gay would send a powerful message about America’s commitment to the human rights of LGBT people worldwide.
Across the globe the LGBT rights movement is at a tipping point. And President Obama can use this moment to influence local communities and nations towards a greater understanding and respect of those who identify as LGBT. Our hard fought rights, including the right to marry here in the U.S., is diminished, when LGBT people in Kenya and many other parts of the world, aren’t recognized for who they are and don’t feel safe in their own communities.
Global LGBT rights must be at the forefront of our human rights agenda and President Obama can and should take the lead. As Nelson Mandela wisely stated, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. It’s time to enhance the freedom of everyone!