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A plea to the

A plea to the


It's time to turn our attention to the plight of our LGBT brothers and sisters in other countries and demand an end of human rights violations.

History is replete with examples of concerned citizens, including members of the LGBT community, taking action when they saw injustice in the world. They were not always able to change the policy of governments at the time, but they were always part of the dialogue.

When the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe, they demanded that the wall be torn down. As South Africa's minority white government clung to a system of apartheid, they protested and said it was wrong. They cried out for action during the Rwanda genocide and still wonder why more couldn't have been done to stop it.

Perhaps you were a part of these earlier struggles, in addition to your LGBT activism. But maybe you felt fighting for LGBT rights here in the United States took precedence over international issues. Or, like so many of us, you may have just been too busy to pay much attention to the news in other countries. Whatever the case, now is the time to turn our attention to the plight of our LGBT brothers and sisters in other countries and demand an end to human rights violations.

Recently, LGBT elected leaders and appointed officials from around the world met in Seattle to call for the end of sodomy laws and other restrictions that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Delegates to the conference, held by the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute and the International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials, believe gays and lesbians in every corner of the world deserve basic protections. In the United States, the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision of the Supreme Court set out a broad constitutional right to sexual privacy. Federal courts in other countries such as South Africa and Fiji have also affirmed this right to privacy.

However, other countries exhibit a horrific record on these issues.

The exiled Iranian LGBT rights group Homan reports that in Iran more than 4,000 citizens have been executed since 1979 because they are gay or lesbian. In Malaysia "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" is punishable by whipping and imprisonment of up to 20 years. Being gay in Saudi Arabia can lead to a jail term or even beheading. In the United Arab Emirates in 2005, authorities arrested 26 gay men, 22 of them U.A.E. citizens. Pending the outcome of their sentencing, the men could face hormone treatments, lashings, and/or five years in jail.

How can we, as LGBT citizens of the world, turn our backs on these injustices? Many countries, including our own, are currently engaged in a healthy debate about marriage equality for gays and lesbians. That debate will continue at all levels of government. All sides will be heard. Arguments will be made. But no one in this debate has ever suggested that beheading is the answer.

It's time we stopped letting some in the world think our silence means that we approve of the heinous actions of nations that oppress and persecute LGBT citizens. We need to talk about these abuses with our neighbors, families, and friends. We need to engage with organizations that fight for international rights. We need to sensitize members of Congress who sit on committees that deal with international issues.

Ultimately, we need to muster our own energy and strength to help elect more LGBT members of Congress as well as representatives at all levels of government. The solution begins with ensuring we have voices at the table when lawmakers are discussing foreign policy, including how the United States will deal with heinous international behavior and what kind of pressure it can put on the United Nations. 2006 is an important election year, and there is no better time than now to start.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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