Forty-three years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn, a now famous bar in New York City, resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. This resistance gave birth to the LGBT rights movement in America. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn and commit ourselves to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT people both in the United States and around the world.
Last year President Obama issued a proclamation declaring that LGBT rights are human rights and declared their protection a U.S. foreign policy priority. Secretary of State Clinton echoed the president’s remarks stating that, “The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy.” This year both the President and Secretary Clinton reiterated their messages calling for the rights of LGBT people to be respected universally. It is in this spirit that I would like to address the situation facing the LGBT community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I would like to commend the work carried out by committed local activists. I have met some of them, and they are very impressive members of your community. These brave young people all too often are ignored, ridiculed, and subjected to threats of physical violence. There is no public gathering associated with LGBT Pride Month in Bosnia and Herzegovina while neighbor countries have held public exhibitions for a number of years, though not without serious threats. I look forward to the day when it will be possible for local activists to stage a public Pride event.
Why are marches, exhibitions or other events important for LGBT Pride? These events allow the LGBT community, which exists largely out of public view due to fear of ridicule or reprisal, to let society know that they exist and that they are entitled to equal treatment and protection in the communities where they live. We should not only to look back and note how far the quest for equal rights for LGBT people has come in forty-three years but also look forward, identify the challenges the LGBT community faces and let the rest of society know that the LGBT population is here, and it is here to stay.
Dedicated activists are improving the lives of LGBT people in Bosnia and Herzegovina every day, but remarkable progress will begin when society as a whole begins to accept LGBT people for who they are – people, who deserve to be treated just like you and me. Secretary Clinton recently remarked that, “In the United States and around the world, progress is being made. The tireless advocacy of generations is bending the arc of history. Barriers are being torn down, discriminatory laws repealed, and millions are now able to live more freely and participate in the future of their communities and countries.” It is time that these barriers come down in Bosnia and Herzegovina too and that local LGBT people take their rightful place, openly, as members of their communities.