NAIROBI, Kenya — In a speech marking International Human Rights Day Hilary Clinton said the US would push for gay rights abroad and was willing to use foreign aid to encourage reform.
Speaking at the UN in Geneva Clinton said: "Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed ... I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people."
Clinton's statement was reiterated by US President Barack Obama in Washington.
Clinton admitted that the US's own record on gay rights was "far from perfect" and that there were many obstacles to gay rights in deeply held "personal, political, cultural and religious beliefs."
But Clinton insisted that gay rights are human rights. "Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same," she said.
Her comments are likely to trigger a backlash in Africa where many countries outlaw homosexuality. This month Nigeria voted to ban gay marriage while in other countries homosexuality carries long jail terms and the death penalty has been mooted.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron made a similar announcement to Clinton's in October in which he threatened to withhold aid from countries that discriminated against homosexuals. There was a predictable response from African governments which often describe homosexuality as "un-African," at odds with Christian beliefs and a Western import.
Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe went as far as to call Cameron "satanic" for standing up for gay rights.