By Cathy Kristofferson, June 26, 2013
President Obama’s comments about LGBT equality which he made today following the Supreme Court marriage equaity rulings challenges him to “walk the walk”— while on his week-long three country tour of Africa. Today he commented after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled DOMA unconstitutional:
“We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Now President Obama is embarking on a tour that includes Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa. These are three countries where society is not all that accepting of their LGBTI communities.
Last week speaking in Germany, the President said:
“When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well.”
So the question is will the President stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in these African countries as well as the rest of Africa, whilst on African soil?
The first stop on his trip is Senegal, where not only does the LGBTI community have no rights, but face societal discrimination as well as the criminalization of homosexuality which is punishable by imprisonment.
The next stop will be Tanzania where homosexuality is a crime that is punishable by up to life imprisonment.
The post-apartheid constitution of South Africa outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Although South Africa became the first and only country in Africa to allow marriage for same-sex couples and full equality, its society remains largely homophobic and has a high record of violence against gays and lesbians. South Africa remains the country with the highest incidence of so called “corrective” rape of lesbians.
At his press conference today, Jay Carney was questioned about the issue LGBT rights and commented:
Q: In light of the decision that we are waiting on from the Supreme Court, in his bilateral meetings, will the President address social issues with especially the President of Senegal? It’s a criminal act — homosexuality is a criminal act in Senegal. And will this be a topic of conversation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn’t rule it out. I don’t want to get ahead of the Supreme Court. But the issues you raise with regard to the criminalization of homosexuality are significant. And you can assume that that’s something that is both a concern to the President and the administration, and that would be something that we would discuss.
Today after the Supreme Court rules, President Obama, aboard Air Force One en route to Senegal, called to congratulate Edie Windsor the plaintiff in the DOMA case and Kris Perry and Sandy Stiers in the Proposition 8 plaintiffs, telling them:
“We’re proud of you guys. You guys should be very proud of today. You’re helping a whole lot of people, everywhere.”
In 2012, President Obama famously declared he had evolved, accepting same-sex marriage and now he fully supports marriage equality. This February, the Obama administration came out against Proposition 8.
So now as the President visits Africa, in the face of a more equal America, and while we certainly do not expect him to tout the ideal of marriage equality, we do expect him to speak out against homophobia, violence, hate and criminalization of homosexuality in Africa. We believe that given the condition and state of the countries the President is visiting, in so far as they pertain to human rights and sexual orientation, the President must do what he can to enlighten those countries on how imperative their treatment of gay people is to their human rights record.