May 18, 2013
Obama says US to stand up for gay rights abroad
President Barack Obama told US diplomats and foreign aid workers on Tuesday to do more to advance gay rights abroad, a move that promotes US human rights policy and appeals to a key Democratic constituency at home.
In a memo released the same day as pop singer and gay rights advocate Lady Gaga visited the White House, Obama said he was deeply concerned about violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide and called for efforts to prevent and respond faster to abuses.
But Obama's message offered nothing new to activists campaigning for same-sex marriage in the United States, a sensitive political issue.
Nonetheless, his announcement was welcomed by a leading US-based group representing gays and lesbians.
Gays and lesbians backed Obama strongly in the 2008 and he is counting on their support for his 2012 campaign, which is set to be a tougher slog as a result of the weak economy and strong polling numbers for conservative Republicans.
Obama said last year his views on marriage for gay couples were "constantly evolving" but has since held a cautious line on an issue that could alienate social conservatives ahead of next November's presidential vote. He says it should be up to states to decide and not the federal government.
Obama had no plans to meet Lady Gaga on Tuesday because he was in Kansas for a speech advocating for middle-class tax cuts.
The flamboyant singer had pushed for the repeal of a ban on gays serving openly in the US military. The repeal took effect in September, one of Obama's major achievements on gay issues.
She was to meet officials from the White House public engagement office to discuss her new "Born This Way Foundation," focused on fighting bullying and homophobia and instilling more confidence in young people.