Now that Hillary Clinton has secured the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential race, her record as the United States’ top diplomat during President Barack Obama’s first term in office is likely to come under even more scrutiny than it did during the Republican presidential primary. All 17 contenders, including the winner, Donald J. Trump, were fond of asking, “What did Hillary Clinton accomplish as secretary of state?”
One accomplishment that has received scant attention is that she ushered gay rights onto the international stage. It is fair to say that without Clinton’s efforts, the global struggle for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people would not have proceeded as fast as it has in the past several years, nor would the United States be seen today as a global leader in that struggle. At the heart of these efforts was the 2011 United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, otherwise known as the UNHRC Gay Rights Resolution, an international agreement whose drafting and signing Clinton oversaw. With that document, and a sister UNHRC resolution of 2014 condemning anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, the UN has formally recognized gay rights as part of the international human rights regime.
Given Clinton’s thorny history with the LGBT community, her role as a global gay rights crusader is surprising and richly ironic. More important, Clinton’s championship of gay rights at the global level was not without its share of controversy and unintended consequences. To the delight of gay activists, under her influence at the State Department, gay rights diplomacy became a priority of U.S. foreign policy. But this came at the expense of making the lives of many gays and lesbians around the world less safe by triggering a massive backlash in several parts of the developing world, especially in Africa.
A RADICAL MAKEOVER
Clinton’s gay rights crusade began within the State Department, which she transformed into one of the most—if not the most—gay-friendly
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