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Week in Review: Clinton Launches Historical US LGBT Foreign Policy, Plan B Pill Not for Youth, Voter Laws Under Assault

by Tanya Domi on December 11, 2011

in Analysis,Tanya Domi,Week In Review

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International

Hillary Clinton’s Makes US Foreign Policy LGBT History

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a historical foreign policy speech outlining the Obama Administration’s position on LGBT human rights from the Palais des Nations Hall in Geneva on December 6, marking a memorable international Human Rights Day, to rousing applause.  Her iconic lines that “Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same.” Clinton repeated “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights,” initially delivered by Clinton at the State Department’s LGBT Pride event  in 2010.  The White House released a National Security Council Memorandum concurrently, outlining a presidential directive on authority and mandate for federal government agencies who will be responsible for extending protections to LGBT persons abroad via a number of agencies, including Immigration and Home Land Security.  For LGBT Americans it has been a week of joy and gratification for the memorial text delivered by Clinton, but mixed with regret that a similar strategic policy approach has not been engaged at home.  The NCRM blog will report to its readers this coming week the story behind the speech and the preparation of the  Presidential National Security Council Memorandum along with Clinton’s ground-breaking speech.

Russian Elections:  Votes Rigged Outraging Masses

Across Russia yesterday in numerous cities, Russians gathered in protest, marked by 25,000 who gathered in Moscow, voicing outrage about reported ballot rigging by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia political party, who managed to hang onto to a slim majority in its Duma elections, held on December 4th. Massive voter fraud was reported by the OSCE and a domestic election monitoring group, whose website was hacked by alleged Putin supporters. Putin, who now appears politically weakened by the election results, launched his presidential election bid by lashing out against Hillary Clinton, who he accused of inspiring demonstrations, because she acknowledged the election rigging reported at the OSCE Ministerial meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania early in the week.  The White House also issued similar comments.  Russia has witnessed an effort in the past few weeks initiated in the St. Petersburg City Council that would gag LGBT activists to discuss their lives and political concerns in the presence of minors.  This initiative has been backed by the United Russia political party.  Expect to see more of the same in the run-up to presidential elections scheduled for March 4-11.

France Emerges with a Political Victory as Germany and Britain Struggle to Address Euro Crisis

France President Nicolas Sarkozy, seen as the “second partner” in the principally led German effort to cool-off a very hot Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, led France as an ascendant victor in the Euro debt political negotiations this past week by obtaining a preferred intergovernmental agreement between the European 17 core Eurozone countries, but the outcome left Germany’s Angela Merkel short in getting amendments to the Lisbon treaty for all 27 EU countries, that would apply to the the core 17.  Britain’s David Cameron could not get protection for London’s financial houses, thus vetoing Germany’s proposal, leaving the United Kingdom further from the Europe Union financial family.

Merkel unhappy, put a brave face on half a loaf, did not criticize Britain, but Sarkozy lept at the opportunity, saying at an early morning press conference on Friday morning:  “Those who did not want to join the euro are not in the best place to advise its members of its functioning.”  Cameron returned to London to criticism that his veto was ‘bad for Europe’, according to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg,  his coalition government partner.  In the BBC interview Clegg also said the Lisbon Treaty veto “untenable” for him to welcome, while acknowledging the situation as difficult.  Now it appears that Merkel will pursue an updated Lisbon Treaty, less Britain, making 26 members.

National

Obama and Sebelius Diss Science In Rejecting Plan B Pill Access for Minors

Reproductive rights advocates were shocked this week when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an unprecedented action overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to allow minor girls, 16 and under, to obtain the “Plan B” pill as an over-the-counter medicine, an emergency means to avoid unwanted pregnancies without a prescription.  Seen as a troubling precedent that could open the door to future decisions, most likely associated with controversial sexual health related matters, advocates have expressed surprise and deflation that the Obama Administration would defy scientific opinion that determined that the Plan B pill is safe and should be made available to minors without a prescription.

Added ugliness and political expediency came from President Obama himself, who spoke from the White House press room lectern and backed Sebelius’ decision “saying she was concerned that young people could buy the pill alongside bubble gum and batteries”. He also qualified his remarks as a “father of two daughters” and that “most parents would probably feel the same way. He continued: “It is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.” The father of first daughters Malia and Sasha, paints a picture of paternalistic protection and ‘father knows best’.  But alas its an election year.  So much for science.

Voter ID Laws Under Assault by Republicans; Wisconsin Walker Recall Effort Enjoys 300,000 Signatures 

Marking International Human Rights Day, Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, has been calling the current period in America, one of the “greatest attacks on voting rights laws in a 100 years,” led a coalition march in New York City to the United Nations in an effort to raise awareness of the assault in at least 25 states on U.S. voter identification laws.  Last month, Ohio voters were successful in organizing a recall effort on a State of Ohio Voter ID rights law, that had been amended by Republican Governor John Kasich, whose reactionary policies inspired organizers to obtain enough signatures to place the discredited law on the ballot during the 2012 elections.  Ohio voters openly rejected Democrats in 2010, only to come roaring back at Kasich for his anti-union efforts to strip collective bargaining rights, which was overwhelmingly rejected by the Ohio electorate last month, as well.

In another bell-weather Midwestern state, Wisconsin, organizers there have quickly obtained more than 300,000 signatures of the 540,000 required in an effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker, for his success in stripping collective bargaining rights and requiring workers to pay more for health care, along with diminished pay wages. Organizers are hoping to garner as many as 750,00 signatures to provide insurance for disqualifications. Walker, was the first Republican governor in the country, elected in 2010, that immediately went to work to diminish labor union rights, long held to be a core Democratic Party constituency.  While obstacles remain for Wisconsin efforts to revoke Walker’s mandate, including finding a candidate to take on Walker.  Thus far, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who lost re-election in 2010, has refused to be a candidate.  But first things first.

 


Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, LGBT human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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{ 1 comment }

still4hill December 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Thanks, Tanya, for mentioning the GLIFAA speech which is when she first uttered those words. She is always ahead of the rest of the administration! I resented remarks last week that she was "acting under Obama's orders" giving that speech. She has been first to make every conciliatory move with the LGBT community since that day in June 2009 when she granted benefits to domestic partners of DOS employees. (Or actually since that State Department Town Hall in Feb. 2009 when GLIFAA asked her for this and she promised to investigate the possibility.)

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