Hillary Clinton will make gay rights US foreign policy

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One of two contenders for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States has said that if elected she will be “strongly outspoken” on the executions of gay people in countries such as Iran.

In an interview with Philadelphia Gay News ahead of the Pennsylvania primary later this month, Senator Hillary Clinton answered questions on gay marriage, immigration policy for same-sex couples and the ban on openly gay people serving in the US military.

Her comments on attitudes towards homosexual acts in some Middle Eastern nations reveal a stance that is far more radical than that taken by EU governments.

“What changes would you make toward governments that execute gay people, such as Iran, Egypt and Iraq and numerous other countries in the Middle East and Africa? Will you offer political asylum?” she was asked.

“I would be very strongly outspoken about this and it would be part of American foreign policy,” the former First Lady replied.

“There are a number of gross human-rights abuses that countries engage in with whom we have relations and we have to be really vigilant and outspoken in our total repudiation of those kinds of actions and do everything we can, including using our leverage on matters such as aid, to change the behaviour so we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening.”

The UK government has called for universal decriminalisation of homosexuality and is developing a strategy for promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBT people overseas.

Last year Foreign Office minister Ian McCartney set out five areas where UK action can make a difference: non-discrimination in the application of human rights; support for LGBT activists and human rights defenders; health and health education; raising LGBT issues at international and multilateral institutions and bilateral engagement with key countries.

In the past the British government has lobbied in support of the UN-Economic and Social Council continuing to grant consultative status to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered non-governmental organisations.

But the idea of an international treaty or convention on the human rights of LGBT people has been ruled out as unfeasible.

“The government judge that there is not sufficient consensus globally to justify pursuing an international convention at present; though it is willing to work for the engagement of countries which would produce a worthwhile such instrument,” minister Meg Munn told MPs earlier this year.

During her interview with Philadelphia Gay News Senator Clinton also offered changes in immigration laws to bring equality between gay and straight couples if she returns to the White House.

“Immigration is a federal responsibility and I am going to do everything I can to eliminate any disparities in any benefits or rights under our law at the federal level so that all people will have available to them every right as an American citizen that they should, and that would include immigration law,” she said.

US foreign policy is directed by the State Department, which has been heavily criticised by its own staff for discrimination against same-sex partners of employees.

In December a former US ambassador left his post after criticising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s treatment of gay people.

Michael E Guest retired after more than 26 years as a form of protest against regulations that he considered as unfair to same-sex partners of foreign service officers.

The 50-year-old, who is openly gay, served as a US ambassador to Romania when President Bush took office.

He was the first out gay person to be confirmed by the Senate to an ambassadorial post.

Since his return home in 2004, he has appealed directly to the US Secretary of State Rice to end gay discrimination.

“For the past three years, I’ve urged the Secretary and her senior management team to redress policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian employees,” he said during his farewell speech in Washington.

According to Guest, under the current regulations only a US State Department’s spouse can claim several rights which are denied to unmarried partners and same-sex partners.

These include issues such as the lack of training for same-sex partners to recognise terrorist threats, the lack of medical care and the need to pay for one’s own transportation when one’s partner is on duty.

Guest said that these issue could have been solved simply with Ms Rice’s signature, but his pleas had never received any attention.