WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — Vice President Joe Biden declared that the U.S. and the Obama administration are part of a unified front against gay discrimination, saying that “prejudice is prejudice” and gay rights is “the civil rights issue of our day.”
Speaking with international LGBT activists at the Naval Observatory Tuesday, Biden said that the defense of gay rights is a definitive mark of a civilized country. He said that regardless of “culture” and social traditions, equal rights for the LGBT community must be a higher priority.
“I don’t care what your culture is,” Biden told about 100 guests at the Naval Observatory’s vice presidential mansion, The Associated Press reports. “Inhumanity is inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice.”
Biden said that nations which fail to protect LGBT people have a “price to pay for being inhumane.” Biden agreed with White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s comments earlier this week that global discrimination against gays is a cricitical international human rights issue at the top of the U.S. priority list.
“Governments are responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and it is incumbent upon the state, and on each of us, to foster tolerance and to reverse the tide of discrimination,” Rice said earlier on Tuesday. “To achieve lasting global change, we need everyone’s shoulder at the wheel; With more voices to enrich and amplify the message — the message that gay rights are straight-up human rights — we can open more minds.”
The vice president and other top White House officials’ were meeting with international gay rights activists from Britain, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland.
Last week, the U.S. imposed visa bans on Ugandan officials who are involved in corruption and are violating the rights of gay people and others. Uganda passed a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties for gay sex and made life sentences possible for those convicted of breaking the law.
During his trip to Africa last year, President Barack Obama, while in Senegal, urged African leaders to extend equal rights to gays and lesbians. Senegal’s president, however, pushed back, saying his country “still isn’t ready” to decriminalize homosexuality. Seven countries have laws imposing death sentences for gay sex and Brunei is on track to becoming the eighth one.
Tuesday’s forum was the latest administrative attempt by Obama to promote gay and lesbian rights both in the United States and abroad. Obama successfully pushed to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military and his administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act years before the Supreme Court took it up.
Earlier this month, Obama announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, it also granted new benefits to same-sex couples, including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law.
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