For years, it seemed like Australia was ahead of the United States on matters of LGBT policy. Whether it was serving openly in the military, employment non-discrimination, or partner benefits, we all looked longingly toward the Lucky Country.
While the United States still has a way to go, we are doing much better in the past few years and been making substantial progress in promoting equal rights for LGBT Americans. Right now, 17 states and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriage. There are court cases moving forward in several other states – including Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia – that could push that number even higher this year.
I remain convinced that it’s only a matter of time before marriage equality – and in fact full equality – will be recognized across the United States, and around the world.
Of course, we recognize that each country must arrive at decisions on LGBT issues in its own time. That doesn’t mean however, that the United States is sitting idly by while LGBT persons are oppressed. The president wants to make sure that facing discrimination or harassment or jail time or even death based on who you love becomes a thing of the past. And he means that.
Through the Global Equality Fund – a public-private partnership which we hope Australia will join soon – we are working to combat violence and discrimination against LGBT persons and to support LGBT advocates. The Global Equality Fund puts our money where our mouth is. Since its launch in December 2011, the Fund has dispersed more than $7 million in small grants and emergency assistance to LGBT advocates.
President Obama has also repeatedly and publically spoken out against laws that criminalize homosexuality, including most recently those passed in Uganda and Russia.
So, we are working internationally to advance one of our core values – the conviction that LGBT rights are human rights. Australia has not only been supportive of our efforts, but has been a key player in the UN Human Rights Council, in the World Health Organization, and in other multilateral institutions as we work to promote and protect LGBT rights – and LGBT individuals – around the world.