Gay Marriage and Obama: International Reaction
President Obama’s historic support for marriage equality has become ‘the shot heard around the world.’
“President Obama joins the British Prime Minister and the new French President in backing same-sex marriage. It’s an unstoppable global trend, with more and more countries planning to end the ban on gay couples getting married. There is growing momentum for same-sex marriage in many countries, from Cuba to Nepal, Denmark, Australia and Columbia,” said UK-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“Obama’s support will boost the worldwide campaign for marriage equality and, through media reporting of his support, raise awareness of gay marriage among billions of people in every corner of the earth,” Tatchell said.
“This is incredibly important, it’s excellent news. The United States is a global leader on everything, and that includes gay rights,” Julio Moreira, president of the Rio de Janeiro-based Arco-Iris gay rights group, told the AP. “This will force other nations like Brazil to move forward with more progressive policies.”
Thai activist Natee Teerarojjanapongs told The Guardian: “I was starting to lose hope in fighting for gay marriage legalisation in Thailand, but now Barack Obama’s endorsement is rekindling my fire and is giving me the encouragement to go on.”
The AP quoted negative reactions based on religious views from Peru and Egypt, but also quotes Sasha Mohammed, 30, in Toronto. He said:
“This stance will shape the way the rest of the world views the U.S., and will eventually force the way Americans see things to change. It is, after all, impossible to overtly hold onto your prejudices when everyone around you condemns you for it.”
Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia already allow gay and lesbian marriages. Full marriage equality is in place now in ten countries worldwide. It is being pushed forward in a number of countries, including Australia, where Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is opposed, was asked for her reaction:
“I’ve made my mind up and my position on this is well known,” Gillard told reporters in Canberra. “I think it just reinforces this as a matter that people form their own views on, a deeply personal question people will think about, work their way through it; obviously President Obama has and he’s announced a decision.”
“If Barack Obama can support marriage equality in an election year, in a country where support for the issue is lower than in Australia, then our national leaders have no excuses,” said Australian Marriage Equality campaign director Rodney Croome.
“Australia is lagging behind other comparable countries and it’s time for our national leaders to catch up to their counterparts overseas.”
Germany is another country which may soon have marriage equality; it now has a form of civil unions. Its openly gay foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle said:
“I welcome this not just personally but also in the name of the German government. It’s okay to marry gay.”
African leaders have yet to react less than a day after the comments. But it took some time after the Obama administration announced in December that it would integrate LGBT human rights into its foreign policy for that reaction, which was universally negative in Africa.
However, the AP had this reaction from someone selling Obama memorabilia in Dakar, Senegal: “I really like Barack Obama as a president, but not this latest declaration.”
“Obama’s comments will provide another opportunity for religious fundamentalists to raise their homophobic rhetoric,” Damian Ugwu, regional Africa programme coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission told The Guardian.
“In Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, these remarks are going to get a lot of bashing.”
But LGBT rights supporters in Kenya and Uganda thought they would do good. ”The fact that these comments come from Obama make it much harder for people in Kenya to sit back and say that gay rights are just a western idea,” said Monica Mbaru, a gay rights activist in Kenya told The Guardian.
“If it had been say President Clinton, people would have said homosexuality is just a white disease, but with Obama there is an ownership for the people here. Just like we have heard statements from others like Desmond Tutu, these are African elders who resonate with the local people, and their statements are taken very seriously – they are opinion shapers in this region.”
“We will be definitely be using his comments to try and get more support from communities in Kenya,” she said.
Negative reaction can also be expected from the Vatican and from many majority Muslim nations. Ibrahim Ali, an independent member of Malaysia’s Parliament and leader of a rights group for the country’s majority Malay Muslims, told the AP:
“They can practice this in America if they want, since it’s their right, but we are still very concerned, because whatever America practices, it often wants other countries to follow suit,” he said.
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