Kerry 'Proud' of Obama for Refusing to Defend DOMA

Susan Jones | June 20, 2013 | 7:30am EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department on June 19, 2013. (AP Photo)

( - Secretary of State John Kerry, wishing "Happy Pride to all," told a gathering of State Department homosexuals that he's proud of the Obama administration for refusing to defend a federal law the president dislikes.

"And the fact is that we have an administration today that I am proud to say no longer defends the constitutionality of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). That’s an enormous step forward," Kerry said at a "pride" event for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) on Wednesday.

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In a Feb. 23, 2011 letter to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that President Obama had determined that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment, and therefore Obama had instructed the Justice Department "not to defend the statute" in a case challenging it.

Holder said Obama would continue to enforce the law by instructing executive agencies to comply with it, until Congress repeals it or the courts rule against it. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA any day now.

In his remarks Wednesday, Kerry told GLIFAA that having them represent the United States "helps us demonstrate our leadership."

"And as Americans send us out to show our face to the world in this Department, we will set an example through our respect for the rights of people everywhere. Having GLIFAA members as part of that American face, frankly, helps us demonstrate our leadership.

"Our work, though, is more than just setting an example," Kerry said. "We've got to be out there, showing up in places where progress on LGBT rights has been slower and harder to achieve, and where using our tools of development and diplomacy actually leverage our efforts forward in this endeavor."

Homosexuality is a criminal offense in many African and Islamic nations. Nevertheless, "American leadership requires promoting universal values," Kerry said.

Supporting LGBT rights "isn't an aberration," Kerry continued. "This isn’t some step out of the mainstream. It’s actually the mainstream is out of step with what ought to be the mainstream. The mainstream represents the recognition of universal rights that have been true since humankind began writing about them and defining them, and as we have moved through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries to this place in the 21st century, where we understand that dignity and equality and the rights of all people are at the center of what we ought to be espousing in our public and our private life."

'Integrate LGBT policy into our foreign policy'

The United States has a "moral obligation to stand in pride with LGBT individuals and advocates" when abuse is directed at them, Kerry said. "We have a moral obligation to decry the marginalization and persecution of LGBT persons. And we have a moral obligation to promote societies that are more just, more fair, and tolerant.

"It is the right thing to do. It’s also in our country’s strategic interest. Greater inclusion and protection of human rights, including those for LGBT people and for their communities, leads to greater stability, greater prosperity, and greater protection for the rights of human beings. Stronger partners on the world stage are built out of this endeavor, and the truth is that in the end, it can actually help project peace and security across the whole region."

Kerry also described what the U.S. government is doing to advance LGBT "rights" overseas:

"With our support, the UN Human Rights Council passed its first-ever resolution affirming the rights of LGBT persons. Through PEPFAR’s blueprint for an AIDS-free generation, we are working to scale up HIV services for LGBT individuals, who are often at higher risk. Our Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration is expanding our effort to help LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. And we are providing LGBT travelers with information about countries where they may face prosecution or arrest – persecution.

"Overseas, we’re encouraging our missions to think about how do you best support these goals. And here at home, we’ve set up a Department-wide task force that will develop new approaches in order to try to better integrate LGBT policy into our foreign policy.

"And through our Global Partnerships Initiative...we have set up the Global Equality Fund, and that will support LGBT human rights defenders on the front lines. We’re working with like-minded governments, including Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, and Finland. And we have partnered with private sector leaders..."

Kerry noted that President Obama last week appointed three openly gay ambassadors to Denmark, Spain, and to the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"So we are committed to seeing more LGBT persons in senior positions in this Department."

Kerry said the United States is undergoing a transformation on LGBT issues that hasn't happened in many other countries. He credited younger people who are "growing up with a different sense of what's important" -- versus "older folks who lived in a different norm" and are "not as in touch."

Without mentioning African or Muslim nations by name, Kerry noted that the same countries that reject LGBT equality are also more likely to resist democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of speech.

By continuing to "speak out in various countries about human rights," the United States "will help "the same evolutionary process to take place in some of these places of resistance as it has here and in other parts of the world..."

Joining Kerry at the GLIFAA Pride event was Mara Keisling, a transgender woman and founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Kerry also singled out Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard, a young homosexual man murdered in Wyoming almost 15 years ago. "You really do inspire us and we are very honored to have you here with us today," Kerry told them.

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