BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Remember Abe Lincoln's roughly two-minute "four-score-and-seven-years-ago" speech back on Nov 19, 1863? The one where he
waxed warm about all men being created equal?
On Dec 6, 2011, 148 years later, US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton delivered a 30-minute, global “gay rights are human rights” call to arms
at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on the occasion of International
Human Rights Day.
She framed the struggle for queer rights as part and parcel of the history and evolution of human rights struggles: "Like being a woman, like being a racial,
religious, tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human . . . It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because
of their sexual orientation or because they do not conform to cultural norms
about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human
rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay or allow those who harm
gay people to go unpunished . . . or when people are murdered after public calls
for violence towards gays or when they are forced to flee their nations and
seek asylum in other lands to save their lives."
Clinton also calmly dismissed anti-gay religious and
cultural arguments: "This is not unlike the justification offered for violent
practices toward women, like honour killings and widow burnings or female
genital mutilation. Some people defend those practices as part of a cultural
tradition, but violence towards women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Likewise
with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly
reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. In each of these cases,
we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that
belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT
people, criminalizing their status or behaviour, expelling them from their
families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their
killing . . . Let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and
to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source."
And she debunked myths: "Some seem to believe it [being gay]
is a Western phenomenon, therefore people outside the West have grounds to
reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into or belong to every
society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors
and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know
or acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends and our neighbours. Being
gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality."
Watch Clinton's speech to the UN below: