An Open Letter to President Barack Obama on the occasion of his inauguration, 20 January 2009


Dear President Barack Obama,

Congratulations on the occasion of your inauguration.

On this special day, the hopes of billions of people across our precious planet are vested in your presidency. They look to you to show practical and moral leadership in resolving the great challenges that face humanity.

You have a historic opportunity to give new expression to the United State’s founding ideals of liberty, justice and equality, by defending human rights — including the human rights of LGBTI people, in the US and worldwide.

There are many new policies you can initiate, at relatively little cost, which will greatly extend the realm of justice and freedom and rebuild the moral stature of the US across the globe:

Propose a new UN International Human Rights Convention, enforceable worldwide and including protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, transgender identity and HIV status.

Instruct the State Department to compile a Global Index of LGBTI Rights and raise abuses of these rights in the UN and with offending states, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uganda, Iran, Nigeria, Yemen, Jamaica, Cameroon, Lithuania, Afghanistan, Belarus and Iraq.

Make US aid to homophobic countries conditional on serious progress towards their repeal of anti-gay and anti-transgender laws.

Show the way by eliminating such discriminatory laws in the US, including repealing the ban on same-sex marriage and the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and enacting laws to protect LGBTI people against discrimination in employment, housing, education, advertising and the provision of goods and services.

Use the network and resources of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to train LGBTI human rights defenders and support LGBTI organisations, especially in poorer developing countries. 

Press for the worldwide decriminalisation of same-sex acts.

Seek the universal abolition of capital punishment, including the execution of LGBTI people. Give a lead by ending the death penalty in the US.

Withdraw diplomatic, economic and military support from tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia that persistently deny freedom to their own people and oppress their own citizens, on grounds such as gender, sexual orientation, transgender identity, race, nationality, religion or belief, language and so on.  

Recognise and support the International Criminal Court, to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including homophobic tyrants.

End the US use of detention without trial, torture and extraordinary rendition, and close down Guantanamo Bay.

Withdraw from Iraq and renounce the US policy of selective and unilateral military intervention to overthrow foreign dictatorships, like the Saddam Hussein regime, in favour of a policy supporting democratic and humanitarian civil society organisations within those countries, in order to empower the victims of oppression to liberate themselves.

Cease propping up corrupt, pro-western, and often homophobic, human rights abusers, such as the Ugandan and Nigerian regimes.

Devise a new, more just international economic framework, where the common good, environmental protection and global equity take priority over private privilege, corporate greed and national self-interest. A fairer, sustainable, regulated and accountable international economic system is our best hope to safeguard jobs, homes, savings, public services, welfare provision, the environment and to bridge the chasm of inequality between the global north and south.

Take action to save the lives of the 1.5 billion people on our planet who are malnourished and without safe, clean drinking water (of which about 150 million are LGBTI). What is the point of securing LGBTI equality if LGBTI people are left to die of starvation and disease?

Lobby for a UN Convention Against War and Poverty, whereby the nations of the world, including the US, agree to cut their annual military expenditure by 10% and to divert the $100,000 million saved into a ‘Marshall Plan 2′ for the total eradication of hunger, malnutrition, dirty drinking water, poor sanitation and preventable illnesses by the year 2025.

Act now to halt the single greatest threat to the future of humanity: climate chaos. It is more of a danger than terrorism and war, and threatens the survival of all species and all races, nationalities, faiths and sexualities. LGBTI freedom means nothing if we don’t have a planet where we can enjoy it. Preserving our fragile biosphere is the precondition for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — for every human being, regardless of sexual orientation.

Destiny awaits you, Mr President. The hopes of humanity are in your hands. May you rise to greatness as a progressive and unifying leader who shapes a freer and fairer future — not just for the American people but for the people of the whole world.

Yours with best wishes for a more peaceful, just and green planet,

Peter Tatchell, LGBTI human rights campaigner and spokesperson for OutRage! — London, UK

For more information about Peter Tatchell’s human rights campaigns: www.petertatchell.net

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