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Susan Rice: Protecting human rights is ‘essential to our American story’

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The Obama administration further demonstrated its commitment to LGBT rights both nationally and globally on Tuesday. White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice delivered the keynote address at the White House Forum on Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights. In her speech she told activists that protecting and maintaining human rights for everyone is “fundamental to our American character.”

Rice forwarded President Barack Obama’s message of human equality by comparing the current fight the LGBT community is challenged with today with that of the struggle African Americans faced during the civil rights movement. Conditions for LGBT citizens in the United States may not be as harsh as those who face harsh anti-gay laws in nations like Uganda, Russia and Gambia, but there is still a fight to obtain equal rights.

Rice used her experience as a mother and recognition of those who have fought on her behalf to be where she is today as an emphasis in helping others. She said, “I feel a responsibility and a personal passion to help others enjoy the same opportunities that I have been blessed to receive. It’s what drives me as a public servant and as a mother, because I do not want my children, or anyone else’s, to have their life choices limited by how they look, who they worship, or whom they love.”

She pointed out that there are many leaders in the LGBT community who have transformed fear into respect, citing athletes, educational leaders, and celebrities as inspirations who help broaden a voice that needs to be heard and witnessed on the mission towards acceptance, understanding and equality.

“When a pro-basketball player, or an NFL draft pick, or a high school principal comes out-when a transgender woman is on the cover of TIME magazine-young people all over the country see that they can live their lives openly, with dignity, and achieve great things.”

But there are also many places where sharing that voice and just being a supporter of the LGBT community was enough to make someone a target. There are 80 counties in the world where discrimination against LGBT citizens is actually the law. Rice pointed out that within the country there are still states that have laws, which limits gay rights, and although there has been much progress, she urged attendees to keep rallying and spreading the message of equality.

Rice’s message was clear. She said that, “With more voices to enrich and amplify the message-the message that gay rights are straight up human rights – we can open many more minds.” There is a focus to extend that message globally because protecting human rights is “essential to our American story.”

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