Saturday, October 22, 2011

Out In The World: U.S. a beacon for LGBT rights globally

This Press Release comes from the Bay Area Reporter (Serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities since 1971):

Out In The World: U.S. a beacon for LGBT rights globally

by Heather Cassell

The Obama administration is rolling up its sleeves and putting muscle behind its promises to LGBT individuals and women to uphold rights not only domestically, but globally, a gay State Department official said.

"America has a long record of being out there on human right issues and standing up for universal values, they are American values, but they are also universal," Daniel Baer, openly gay deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. State Department, said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

"It is beneficial to our national interest for America to be seen as a beacon of moral leadership in the world. The fact is we are strongest when we are leading and when we are leading from principle," said Baer, 34, who has been working on international human rights issues for two years.

An estimated 80 countries continue to criminalize same-sex behavior. Hate crimes against LGBT individuals continue to afflict countries. Discrimination against and hatred of queer people continues to cast these individuals off as outsiders. The end result is bad for economic development, public health, communities and bad even for the perpetrator of hate and of course the victim, Baer noted.

There is a moral price paid for perpetrators, societies, and victims of hate and prejudice, Baer believes.

"We've seen time and time again that in societies where one group of people is denied to express themselves ... those societies are not stable societies and they are not as successful societies," said Baer, who oversees Asia and Africa. He was on his way to catch a flight to Ivory Coast to address human rights violations amidst unrest, as he spoke to the B.A.R. on the phone.

"Societies are more stable and more successful when they give everybody a chance to claim their future and when they take advantage of the full range of talents across society," he continued.

Baer's speech to religious leaders at the Compass to Compassion Conference in New York City on October 13 was the first indication following President Barack Obama's address at the United Nations last month that the U.S. is making moves on recent global policy on LGBT rights passed by the UN earlier this year.

The U.S. is moving to implement toolkits to assist embassies with handling human rights violations against LGBT individuals. Communities won't be left out in the cold; local leaders will be provided with high-tech tools by the State Department to document hate crimes against LGBT individuals in their communities. Information gathered will be compiled in Baer's department's annual human rights report.

America is firmly positioning itself to be a lifeline to people who are "engines of change" in their own societies by, "really supporting these people who are the change-makers on the ground and who will be building stronger societies for themselves and their neighbors and their compatriots," said Baer.
Religious leaders are part of his outreach.

"Religious leaders play a very important role in shaping the way that people see and understand their societies around the world," said Baer, who believes that religious and secular leaders need to "engage" each other in dialogue about human rights issues for LGBTs and women. "They have a role to play in the tolerance agenda," he said.

In Baer's vision the "world is stronger if we support human rights," he said, calling global human rights an American issue.

To read Baer's speech, visit here.

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