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We Must Stand Up for the Rights of Gays and Lesbians Everywhere

Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, reflects on President Obama's call for the rights of LGBT people in his address at the U.N. General Assembly.

On Wednesday, addressing the UN General Assembly, President Obama said, "No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere."

We believe that this is the first time that the President of the United States has used his annual General Assembly address to call on the world's heads of state to reaffirm that every person has the right to love whom they choose.  The location and timing of the speech held special meaning considering that seventy-six countries in attendance have laws that make same-sex acts illegal -- and five consider same-sex acts punishable by death.

The Obama Administration is committed to protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBT) in both the domestic and international spheres. This week, the discriminatory law known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was finally and formally repealed, and we're continuing work in many other areas. Over the last year, the U.S. was proud to help spearhead two significant efforts: the UN General Assembly included LGBT persons in a ban on extrajudicial killings and the UN Human Rights Council voted in favor of the UN's first-ever resolution supporting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Around the world, US officials with the State Department, USAID, and other agencies are supporting efforts to protect LGBT people from violence and abuse. Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, our diplomats are engaging with their counterparts in embassies, meeting with LGBT advocates and civil society leaders, and ensuring that our foreign assistance is inclusive of and responsive to the needs of LGBT persons.

We look forward to continued partnership in the weeks and months to come on these critical efforts.

Samantha Power is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights.