State Dept. Criticizes Russians--Not Saudis--on Gay Rights
(CNSNews.com) – Although the U.S. State Department recently singled out Russia by name to criticize its law prohibiting homosexual propaganda aimed at youth, the same State Department refused to comment on Saudi Arabia where homosexual conduct is punishable by death.
On Oct. 24, Uzra Zeya, the acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, spoke at the ILGA-Europe annual conference in Zagrab, Croatia. ILGA is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. In her remarks, Secretary Zeya said that promotion of human rights, including those for LGBT people, is a “foreign policy priority” of the United States.
Zeya praised new hate crimes legislation in Europe and then said, “But the United States remains extremely concerned about negative trends in a number of countries. The anti-gay propaganda law in Russia and the proposed law to strip gay parents of their parental rights are alarming.”
“Laws, even when it is unclear how they will be enforced, are incredibly important,” she said. “They are a statement of a country’s values and they have a teaching effect. Laws that validate discrimination, as we have seen in Russia, can lead to an increase in violence and harassment. This is particularly true when authorities don’t act to protect all of their citizens and when they fail to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by or against particular groups.”
Assistant Secretary Zeya also said, “I’ve singled out Russia but, as you all know, it is not the only place where there were disturbing events in 2013.”
She then went on to talk about some anti-homosexual events in Serbia and “throughout Europe.” But Zeya said nothing about the anti-gay laws and customs throughout much of the Middle East, even though some of those issues are discussed in the State Department’s reports on human rights by country.
In addition, back on June 19, Secretary Zeya told the gay Washington Blade newspaper, “We’re very concerned by the overall direction in Russia. It is something that we have communicated directly to the Russian government.” Also, in an Oct. 25 blog at State.gov, Zeya wrote, “The Anti-Gay Propaganda law in Russia, for example, has led to an increase in harassment and violence targeting LGBT persons.”
In reference to Assistant Secretary Zeya’s comments about singling out Russia – a country also criticized by President Barack Obama for its anti-gay propaganda law – CNSNews.com sent an e-mail to Zeya’s office and the State Department press office. The e-mail mentioned the death penalty and flogging punishments in Saudi Arabia and what Secretary Zeya has said about Russia.
The e-mail specifically asked, “Does the U.S. State Department oppose the law in Saudi Arabia that makes same-sex sexual contact punishable by death or flogging?” And, “Like with Russia, has the State Department communicated directly to the Saudi Arabian government its concern over the anti-same-sex law in that country?” CNSNews.com also asked whether the State Department believes that “Saudi Arabia’s law against same-sex sexual contact increases harassment and violence against LGBT persons?”
Neither Assistant Secretary Zeya nor the State Department press office commented on Saudi Arabia’s anti-homosexual laws and punishments.
Zeya’s press officer, Aaron Jensen, however, did send a general response by e-mail. He said, “We do not have a comment on specific countries. However, we can say that: The President has made clear – through his words and actions – that promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is a foreign policy priority for this Administration.”
“The State Department has been systematically engaged on LGBT issues since 2010, when then-Secretary Clinton instructed all Ambassadors to work to advance the human rights of LGBT persons,” said Jensen.
Zeya’s press officer said her office did “not have a comment on specific countries,” even though Zeya had “singled out Russia” back on Oct. 24 and 25, and on June 19.
Further, while neither Zeya not the State Department press office would comment on Saudi Arabia’s rule on the death penalty for homosexuals, the human rights country report on Saudi Arabia relased in 2012 says, “[C]onsensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging. It is illegal for men ‘to behave like women’ or to wear women’s clothes and vice versa. Due to social conventions and potential persecution, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations did not operate openly, nor were there gay rights advocacy events of any kind.
"There were reports of official societal discrimination, physical violence, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, statelessness, access to education, and health care.”