Obama tells US officials to use overseas aid to promote gay rights Rick Perry says Obama is waging 'war on traditional American values' after president urges aid agencies to fight discrimination Karen McVeigh in New York guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 December 2011 20.32 GMT Article history Hillary Clinton told an audience in Geneva: 'It should never be a crime to be gay.' Photograph: Sebastien Feval/AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama has told US officials to consider how countries treat its gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid. In the first ever US government strategy to deal with human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens abroad, a presidential memo issued on Tuesday instructs agencies using foreign aid to promote such rights. Gay and lesbian lobby groups have reported an increase in human rights abuses in Africa and parts of the Middle East. President Obama is among international leaders who have condemned a bill proposed in Uganda which would make some homosexual acts a crime punishable by death. The Ugandan parliament has recently re-opened the debate on the bill, which had been abandoned after an international outcry. In the memo, Obama said: "I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world, whether it is passing laws that criminalise LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation." Obama's proposal was condemned by Texas governor and Republican presidential contender Rick Perry, who said President Obama was "at war with people of faith in this country". Perry claimed promoting gay rights around the world was "not in America's interests". Perry said in a statement: "This administration's war on traditional American values must stop. "This silly idea is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americans of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong." "President Obama has again mistaken America's tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake." Obama said that the struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons was central to America's commitment to promoting human rights. The State Department will urge aid agencies to deliver "swift and meaningful" responses to serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT people abroad, he said. US agencies are specifically directed to combat the criminalisation of LGBT status or conduct abroad, protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, and engage international organisations in the fight against discrimination. The memo instructs agencies to report on progress within 180 days. It remains unclear whether countries that discriminate against gay people and lesbians would have their funding cut. However, the memo instructs diplomatic and aid agencies to bring pressure to bear on such countries. The latest State Department report is critical of several countries, including US allies such as Saudi Arabia, over their treatment of gay people. In a speech in Geneva to mark international human rights day, secretary of state Hillary Clinton backed the presidential directive. "I am not saying gay people can't or don't commit crimes," she said. "They can and they do, just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable. But it should never be a crime to be gay." Clinton had previously called for greater protection of sexual minorities and the safety of those seeking asylum. In June this year, she welcomed a UN resolution on equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation. The UN Human Rights Council, which expresses "grave concern" for violence and discrimation against individuals because of their sexual orientation, passed the resolution by a narrow margin, despite string objections from countries. While the US, the European Union and Brazil backed the effort, the move drew strong criticism from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Pakistan among others. In October this year, USAID – the US government agency providing economic and humanitarian assistance around the world – announced that it "strongly encourages" businesses contracted with USAID to go beyond non-discrimination protections, to prohibit job bias for LGBT employees and other workers. The 10 countries granted the greatest economic and military assistance from the US – according to USAID – are Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, West Bank/Gaza, Ethiopia, Kenya and Colombia.