While the country waits with bated breath for the Supreme Court to hand down its decision on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, the United States Agency for International Development announced Monday that they would begin a new initiative to ensure the rights of LGBT citizens in developing countries.
Reporting to the San Francisco Chronicle, senior adviser for USAID and creator of this new initiative, Claire Lucas brought back into the spotlight the horrors that LGBT people endure in developing countries. Lesbians who are outed in the South of Africa are forced to endure “corrective rape,” while other LGBT people throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa are tortured and murdered simply for being who they are. Even more astounding and horrifying, Uganda is currently working on passing a bill that would subject gays and lesbians to the death penalty.
This new project will be shared in a partnership between USAID and organizations like Olivia Cruises, the Williams Institute at UCLA, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The program will focus on bringing leadership training, research, and other resources to ensure that citizens who are vulnerable can get the help they need to live their lives fully and completely, without any sort of prejudice-based violence. The program Claire Lucas created will be an outgrowth of President Obama’s recent memorandum in which he states, “Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular federal government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT.”
While many may disagree, it becomes more and more likely that the rights of LGBT people, in this nation and around the globe, may become the civil rights fight that our generation conquers. In a recent blog post, a young Christian writes an open letter to the Church after attending a Macklemore concert, describing the experience she had watching the small crowd in Sioux Falls, South Dakota react to the song “Same Love,” which is a testimony of the artists' views on gay marriage. When the crowd doesn’t walk out or boo, but instead raises their hands and closes their eyes, the young student is moved, writing, “The whole crowd spoke every word with Macklemore. We were thirsty for those words. We want to hear about equality and love in a gentle way. We’re sick of the harsh words of both sides.”
This fight is both domestic and global. Too often our country finds itself trying, sometimes in vain, to repair the broken systems of other countries, while neglecting our own poverty, injustices, and corruption. Back home, we often feel that our own citizens have become the red headed step-child of the government’s mission for equal and civil rights around the globe. For those who believe in LGBT rights, however, this fight must permeate throughout other countries; it must not stop at our boundaries. The fight for “same love” must be a universal fight, and that begins with programs like the one USAID is bringing to other countries.