By Drew Katchen, MSNBC
A full month ahead of what the White House has declared LGBT Pride Month, President Obama and the first lady are honoring the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) – May 17 – by saying LGBT rights are “human rights” and that “all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
In a statement released by the White House, Obama addressed workplace discrimination for LGBT employees and the rights of transgender individuals, and he also acknowledged the importance of LGBT rights overseas.
“Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach,” the statement read.
IDAHOT comes just weeks ahead of pride season this June and the Supreme Court’s highly-anticipated decision on national marriage equality, and just days ahead of a key vote in Ireland. There, Irish voters will head to the polls on Friday, May 22 to decide if the country’s constitution should be changed to make way for marriage equality. If the country votes in favor of same-sex marriage, it will be the first nation to grant couples marrying rights by referendum.
“This day and every day, the United States stands in solidarity with members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and all those around the world who work to advance the unassailable principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement.
Amb. Rice also condemned recent comments by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who threatened violence against LGBT citizens of his own country during a recent speech. Amb. Rice said Jammeh’s remarks “underscore why we must continue to seek a world in which no one lives in fear of violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love.”
IDAHOT also happens to land on the 30th annual AIDS Walk New York, which is expected to bring roughly 30,000 people to march in Central Park to raise money for AIDS charities and organizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 50,000 people in the U.S. are infected with HIV each year.
In a 2011 presidential memorandum seeking to advance global LGBT rights, Obama stated he was “deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world, whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”
According to information provided by Amnesty International (which cites the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), 78 countries have laws in effect that are used to criminalize consensual sexual relationships between adults of the same sex.
And at home, Texas Republicans recently reaffirmed the need for IDAHOT (and a SCOTUS ruling) when they signed a letter of support for the state’s longstanding ban on marriage equality.
“Traditional marriage is the bedrock institution of both our society and the success Texas has been blessed to experience since our admission as the 28th state within these United States of America,” the letter states.
Photo Credit: Chip East/Reuters