President Joe Biden has ordered the US government to use every means necessary, including financial and visa sanctions, to make world leaders protect gay rights.
This is according to a memo the Biden administration sent to relevant US government agencies as part of its moves to expand protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and intersex (LGBTQ) people worldwide.
The directive could put Nigeria, a conservative country where same-sex marriage is banned, and the US at loggerheads.
In 2014, former Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan, signed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act into law, with offenders facing up to 14 years in prison if found guilty.
The Biden presidency has, through the memo, now threatened” “swift and meaningful” responses, including financial sanctions against countries found guilty of human rights abuses of gay persons.
The memo warned:
“When foreign governments move to restrict the rights of LGBTQI+ persons or fail to enforce legal protections in place, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance, agencies engaged abroad shall consider appropriate responses, including using the full range of diplomatic and assistance tools and, as appropriate, financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and other actions.
“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love,” said the memorandum, building on a 2011 directive issued when Biden was serving as vice president under Barack Obama.
“The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values.”
Biden campaigned on a pledge to pass LGBTQ rights legislation known as the Equality Act in the first 100 days of his administration.
The memo directs US agencies working abroad to work harder to combat the criminalisation by foreign governments of LGBTQ status or conduct, and directs the State Department to include anti-LGBTQ violence, discrimination and laws in its annual human rights report.
It calls for increased efforts to ensure that LGBTQ asylum seekers have equal access to protection, expanded training for US federal personnel, and potential increased use of priority referrals to expedite resettlement of vulnerable people.
It also instructs agencies to consider appropriate responses, including the full range of diplomatic tools, and potentially financial sanctions and visa restrictions, when foreign governments restrict the rights of LGBTQ people.
Biden announced the push during a forceful speech at the State Department, vowing to rebuild US credibility worldwide.
“To further repair our moral leadership, I’m also issuing a presidential memo to agencies to reinvigorate our leadership on the LGBTQI issues and do it internationally,” he said.