Obama inspires hope among LGBTs around the world

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Tuesday January 20, 2009

With all eyes on Washington, LGBT activists around the world remain optimistic about the incoming administration.

British gay activist Peter Tatchell congratulated President-elect Barack Obama in an open letter earlier this month. He urged the incoming administration to propose a new United Nations International Human Rights Convention that would include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and HIV status. Tatchell further called upon Obama to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and to lift bans on marriage for same-sex couples in the United States. He asked the incoming commander-in-chief to extend aid to countries based on their progress towards the repeal of anti-LGBT laws. And Tatchell called for the closure of Guant?namo Bay.

"You have a historic opportunity to give new expression to the U.S.'s founding ideals of liberty, justice and equality by defending human rights-including human rights of LGBT people in the United States and worldwide," he said.

Sunil Pant, who became the first openly gay man elected to the Nepalese Parliament last April, agreed.

"[I] see Obama being elected as the first black president of the USA as a symbol of inclusion towards equal participation and shared responsibilities and powers amongst all human beings," he said.

Pant added he remains hopeful Obama will help bridge the gaps between gays and straights and other groups. Rodrigo Martin, a Spanish Socialist Party delegate to Rainbow Rose in Brussels, remains optimstic Obama will reverse the Bush doctrine of the last eight years.

"We hope that this brings about a steady continuation of the development of individual freedoms in a framework of respect for all individual options."

"We hope that this brings about a steady continuation of the development of individual freedoms in a framework of respect for all individual options," he said.

Guant?namo, Iraq and a perceived lack of action on climate change are among the myriad of issues for which Bush has faced international criticism since he took office in 2001.

Obama will take office under extremely high expectations, but Israeli journalist and political activist Yoav Sivan cautioned the administration may not be able to meet all of them.

"The expectations for Obama-in every walk of life and politics-are so high that no matter what he does, he's doomed to be short of some high, often unrealistic standards," Sivan said.

Gay travel writer Michael Luongo plans to watch the inauguration with American and British ex-patriots in Buenos Aires. He noted the majority of Porte?os remain focused on the global economic crisis, but Luongo added he feels Argentines largely support Obama.

"People were quite excited during the elections... and felt they were a real change," he said.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.