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President Obama’s SOTU Speech Impacts Persecuted LGBT People around the Globe

The American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community is thanking President Barack Obama this morning for his historic inclusion of all LGBT people in last night’s State of the Union address before the US Congress, the American people, and the world.

This is the first time that Transgender people have been included in a State of the Union address.

President Obama stated:

“As Americans, we respect human dignity.… That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.”

Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition (African HRC) notes: “This has a great significance not only for America’s LGBT community but for all lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people around the globe. To use words openly instead of mere acronyms is complimentary to our community and indicative of a newfound openness for which we are much appreciative; indeed a huge step forward in the right direction.

The President’s reflection in the speech reminds us, not only of how far we have come in the United States, and how far we still have to go, but also of our role in the globe, to set the path toward full equality and decriminalization of our sexuality, worldwide. Our President is able to recognize that because we lack full equality, we are a marginalized and persecuted community both here in the U.S.A. and abroad.

Though much better off in the United States, we have yet to attain legislation that will provide full comprehensive federal equality. And with regard to the progress we have made, we still tread a fine line with a Republican Congress that is not all too friendly to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The entire State of the Union speech was in essence a call to the Republican Party to hear the people of America, to note the values of the American people, and to do their job to abide our values. It was a reminder that the Ted Cruzs, Sarah Palins, Michele Bachmanns and Jeff Sessions of the Republican Party are a fringe wedge group who could, and would reverse our progress if given half the chance.

I will never forget the words of David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who introduced The Ugandan "Kill the Gays Bill," to include the death penalty for homosexuality. He told me once in a private conversation: “How can you tell us here in Africa that homosexuality is okay when you have laws that are against you and you do not even have equality in your own country.” This reminds us of the importance of our President’s words today, and of the impact our own equality can have on the persecution of LGBT people around the globe.” (Melanie Nathan, Executive Director, African HRC)

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