In honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, President Obama this weekend vowed to “keep fighting, for however long it takes, until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The president, who just last month called for an end to “conversion” therapy for gay youth, proclaimed in a statement that “LGBT rights are human rights.”
Since taking office, Obama has consistently advocated equal rights for LGBT people worldwide. In 2010, he signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the U.S. military’s policy forbidding openly gay men and women from serving. In 2011, he signed an official memorandum directing agencies to combat criminalization of gays abroad.
In a watershed moment, Obama formally endorsed gay marriage in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts in 2012, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president has voiced support for marriage equality. Then, in 2014, he signed an executive order to protect transgendered federal employees from workplace discrimination, and earlier this year, he became the first president to call for protections for transgender individuals in the State of the Union address.
Still, Obama acknowledged, “there is so much more to do” throughout the country – and worldwide.
Even as the White House commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, other world leaders are threatening gays and lesbians.
In a statement released in conjunction with the holiday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice condemned Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s “unconscionable” threat to slit the throats of gay men who tried to marry in his country.
Jammeh’s comments “underscore why we must continue to seek a world in which no one lives in fear of violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love,” Rice said in a statement, noting that in addition to ending trade preferences with the country, the U.S. is “reviewing what additional actions are appropriate to respond to this worsening situation.”
“All people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom the love,” Obama said.
Sunday marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, “a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities,” according to the official website.
“It was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally,” reads the website. “In under a decade, May 17 has established itself the single most important date for LGBTI communities to mobilize on a worldwide scale.”