Human rights for gays at home and abroad

Yesterday morning, I had started to write about the hypocrisy of North Carolina adopting an anti-gay marriage law, while the U.S. was developing a policy to deny foreign aid to countries that discriminate against gays.  I had been primed by watching Jon Stewart the night before, as he appropriately mocked the President’s press secretary for trying to finesse the implications of VP Joe Biden’s public expression of support for gay marriage. When reporters asked the press secretary to clarify Obama’s views on the issue, he tried and failed to convincingly articulate the contradictory claims that the President’s view “hadn’t changed,” and yet was “evolving.”

But then yesterday afternoon, Obama came out (excuse the pun) and made clear his support for the idea of gay marriage.

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

This is a big moment for the United States. The president’s words are not law, but they do imply policy and at least policy goals. Those words could come to haunt him in the election, but I am guessing not. Mitt Romney responded not so much by forcefully condemning the idea of gay marriage — he pointed out that this was his view, but it was a difficult issue — but by emphasizing his consistency over Obama’s lack thereof. It’s hard not to sense that the country has reached a watershed on sexual orientation.

Nonetheless, those foreign governments, especially in Africa, which find themselves under pressure to adopt a more tolerant and inclusive approach to citizens irrespective of sexual orientation may still balk at the varied realization of such ideals within the U.S. As shown below, American states vary widely, with distinctly regional approaches, reminiscent of other civil rights issues from years’ past. Of course, one implication might be that the federal government could withhold funding to the Southeast, especially to states such as Mississippi, which afford no protections for anti-gay discrimination… but that’s not too likely! At the very least, the Obama administration can take the moral high ground now that POTUS has finally spoken without equivocation.

(Graphic from the Guardian UK.)

Gay rights in the U.S. by region

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