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So was Hillary only joking when she said "gay rights are human rights"?

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The US won't be cutting foreign aid to countries that violate the human rights of their gay citizens, we learned today.  So don't worry about what the Secretary of State said only a few months ago. She was only joking, I guess.

More from outgoing US ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas Greenfield:

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, Ambassador Greenfield said her government’s policy on gay rights was clear andho in the public domain.

She stated, however, that the issue of gay rights in Liberia was being surrounded by what she referred to as “misconceptions”.

“Our policies on gay rights are in the public domain,” she said. “I think the issue that has appeared in Liberia is the issue of misconception that United States aid is tied to Liberia’s actions in these areas, and this is not the case,” she said.
Phew. We wouldn't want countries concerned that their human rights record might have any influence on the generous aid they receive from our government each year. I'm not necessarily saying that we tell them the aid will be cut off, but what's the problem with leaving it vague, with saying that all factors, including human rights, are taken into account when distributing US foreign aid?  Then again, the Brits have had no problem saying they'll base some of their aid on support for gay rights, and they did cut some to Malawi recently:
David Cameron has threatened to withhold UK aid from governments that do not reform legislation banning homosexuality.
A spokesman for the Department for International Development said that budget support, which accounts for about 5% of the UK's annual aid budget of £7.46bn, is conditional direct assistance to governments. To qualify, recipients must adhere to rules on poverty reduction, respect of human rights, good governance and domestic accountability.

Malawi recently had £19m of budget support suspended following various infractions including poor progress on human rights and media freedoms and concern over the government's approach to gay rights, the DfID spokesman said.
Now, the ambassador did say some good things.  Such as this:
But when the Daily Observer asked whether she supports gay rights in Liberia, the United States Ambassador replied, “I support the issue of human rights for every person regardless of their orientation, their race or their nationality. I strongly believe that gay rights are human rights,” she declared.
And that's great.  But when you say you support our civil rights, but aren't willing to do anything about it, then you're not really supporting us.  Especially when you then say:
[Greenfield] told the Daily Observer that she was surprised to learn that gay rights in Liberia were an issue.

I don’t know that this is an issue here in Liberia; although I read about it in the press all the time, I was surprised to hear that this is an issue in Liberia.”
She doesn't know? She was surprised to hear that this is an issue?  So you support the human rights of every person, regardless of their orientation.  But you don't plan on doing anything if their human rights are violated.  And in any case, you're not aware of any serious effort targeting those rights.

Maybe the US Ambassador should read some of those fringe news sources reporting on Liberia, like today's Associated Press:
Liberia's Senate will consider a bill Thursday to strengthen the nation's existing anti-gay laws, a senator said, as another West African nation, Cameroon, announced the arrest of 10 women suspected of being lesbians.
Meanwhile, Liberia's former first lady, Senator Jewel Taylor, submitted a bill last week that would prohibit same-sex marriage and make homosexuality a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"We are only strengthening the existing law," she said. "Some media are reporting that I said anyone found guilty of involvement in same sex should face the death penalty, I did not say so, I am calling for a law that will make it a first degree felony," she told the Associated Press.
Oh, it was all a misunderstanding, that "let's put gay people to do death," thing.  (Speaking of which, even though the controversy was being framed, even mistakenly, as "let's put gay people to death," the US ambassador still hadn't heard about it.) Our government just gave Liberia the nudge nudge wink wink that sending their citizens to jail for ten years, simply because they're gay, won't have any effect whatsoever on foreign aid.

Actually it's worse than that.  Read again what the Ambassador Greenfield told the local press:
“I think the issue that has appeared in Liberia is the issue of misconception that United States aid is tied to Liberia’s actions in these areas, and this is not the case,” she said.
So she was aware that there was a "misconception" in Liberia that US aid was going to be cut back because of their gay rights problems. Yet she wasn't aware of the gay rights problems themselves. Wouldn't the US ambassador, on being told that Liberians are afraid their foreign aid is going to be cut off because of their anti-gay policies, have asked, "what anti-gay policies?"

Not so much, apparently.

It is odd, however, that while the US ambassador to Liberia knew nothing of the gay rights controversy in the country she's responsible for, the US embassy in South Africa knew about what was happening to gays in Liberia, and even tweeted about it.

Odder yet, the story the US embassy in South Africa (to their credit) tweeted about notes that the debate over criminalizing homosexuality in Liberia has been "raging" across that country.
Former Liberian first lady Jewel Howard Taylor has introduced a Bill for homosexuality to be made a first degree felony, amid raging debate over gay rights in the country, a lawmaker said on Wednesday.
The issue has been in the headlines this year as a group of activists in the country began lobbying for a Bill legalising same-sex marriage.

This created a furore in the country whose President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Raging. A furor. But just didn't get on the radar of the US ambassador to the country, while it did get on the radar of the US embassy in an entirely different country.

Heckuva job, Greenfield.

And to think, some of us actually thought Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent UN speech meant something when she said:
The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work.
Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons. [emphasis added]
I guess she forgot to add: "psyche!"

In all seriousness, I think Hillary's UN speech was huge.  I said so, and still do.  But the State Department needs to get its act in order.  We can't have US ambassadors sending not-so-coded messages to foreign governments that they can violate the human rights of their own citizens with impunity.  And that the US isn't even watching.  If our government is going to say, as official policy, that "gay rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are gay rights," then we ought to mean it. Otherwise our word means nothing.  And countries will act accordingly.

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