U.S. Ambassador Marks 'International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia'

By Patrick Goodenough | May 17, 2016 | 4:22 AM EDT

U.S. Ambassador Brent Hartley hosts a 2015 IDAHOT event at the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Photo: Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies)

(CNSNews.com) – In a video message marking “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia” Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry commended “all efforts by LGBT persons and our straight allies to secure basic rights and freedoms for everyone.”

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it best when she said ‘gay rights are human rights and human rights are universal,’ said Berry, one of a number of openly gay U.S. ambassadors.

“There is no excuse for discrimination or harassment against the LGBT community anywhere. On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, I commend all efforts by LGBT persons and our straight allies to secure basic rights and freedoms for everyone,” Berry continued.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights for all.”

Berry’s citing of Clinton’s – slightly misquoted – words referred to a speech delivered by the former secretary of state at the Geneva headquarters of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) in December 2011, when she declared, “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

Six months earlier the Obama administration, which has made promotion of LGBT issues a foreign policy priority, co-sponsored at the HRC the first-ever resolution on the human rights of LGBT people.

Since 2004, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) has been marked on May 17 – the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

In recent years it has become popular around the world for public institutions and U.S. and other Western embassies to hoist rainbow flags on the day.

Originally known by the acronym IDAHO, the “T” was added in 2009 to broaden the focus to include “transphobia.”

An organizing committee says events are now held in more than 130 countries, including almost 40 countries where homosexual acts are illegal.

According to 2015 data compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 76 countries around the world.

In five of those countries – Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – along with some provinces in Somalia and Nigeria, convictions for same-sex sexual activity carry the death penalty. ILGA’s 2016 report was due to be released on Tuesday.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow