The Obama administration is announcing a wide-ranging effort to use US foreign aid to promote rights for gays and lesbians abroad, including combating attempts by foreign governments to criminalise homosexuality.
In a memorandum, President Barack Obama directed US agencies working abroad, including the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, to use foreign aid to help gays and lesbians who face human rights violations. He also ordered US agencies to protect vulnerable gay and lesbian refugees and asylum seekers.
"The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States' commitment to promoting human rights," Obama said in a statement.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also is expected to speak about the announcements in Geneva later.
The White House said in an announcement marked the first US government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad.
Protection of human rights
The order also directs US government agencies to use foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination, and to work with international organisations to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Obama's announcement is part of the White House's outreach to gays and lesbians, a core Democratic constituency. Since taking office, Obama has advocated for the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members and ordered the administration to stop enforcing a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
However, Obama has stopped short of openly supporting gay marriage, saying only that his personal views on the matter are evolving.
Gay rights groups praised the order as a significant step for ensuring that gays and lesbians are treated equally around the world.
"Today's actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy organisation.
The presidential directive applies to all US agencies involved in foreign aid, assistance and development, including the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.
(AP, Julie Pace, December 2011)