Washington D.C.- Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement in response to President Obama’s memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons, which directs all federal agencies engaged abroad to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT communities:

“I commend the President for his expanded efforts to protect the human rights of the LGBT community internationally”, said Rep. Berman. “This directive is a powerful statement that we are serious about reducing violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. By establishing processes and structures to ensure a swift and meaningful response to serious incidents abroad, it enables us to carry out our policy that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”

The President’s memorandum follows a number of groundbreaking initiatives by Secretary Clinton to better integrate the protection and promotion of LGBT rights into the State Department’s broader human rights agenda.

Legislation authored by Congressman Berman, which passed the House of Representatives in 2009 but was never taken up in the Senate, would have required the State Department to work with governments of other countries to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality and otherwise restricting the rights of LGBT individuals around the world.