Of course, I'm thinking, that can't be what he said. The man's had some trouble expressing himself clearly at times, but even so I couldn't imagine that anyone would say "human rights for gays are not in America's interests."
And of course, it turns out, that's not what he said at all. What he said was that special rights for gays were not in America's national security interests -- and that foreign aid decisions, which is what all this is about, should be based on national security interests and nothing else.
Secretary Clinton recently gave a speech in which she announced the policy change in which gay rights will be considered in making foreign aid decisions. However, she appears to deny the governor's premise that what is at issue are special rights, saying, "Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights."
There's nothing in her speech that suggests she is interested in "special" rights, and I'm not sure just what Governor Perry means by that. If he means that gays should not have a special right to redefine the basic institutions of society to suit them, I suppose I agree with him; but if he's opposed to the things Secretary Clinton was actually talking about, I don't think those include special rights at all.
Still, let's consider his statement a little more carefully. Here's the meat of his remarks:
This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.....
But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This 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 Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.
Now, it is true that "people of faith" tend to be morally opposed to male homosexuality, not just in this country but in most countries. This is especially true in the countries Secretary Clinton is talking about when she says that being gay should never be a criminal offense -- that is generally true only in the Islamic world.
Secretary Clinton spoke to this issue directly, however, in a way that seems to make clear that the governor's concerns are not well founded.
Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.I generally hate the phrase "fully human" wherever I encounter it -- what is the point of the adjective here? -- and the last line is not quite right. Still, the objection I would raise to it is not that there aren't universal human rights, but that she's eliding past the true reason why they exist.
It happens to be true that Secretary Clinton is poking a finger in the eye of some people of faith, then: Iranian ones, though, not American ones. This is still a strange decision from an administration that declared it was going to rebuild relationships with the Islamic world, but I expect it's because they really believe in it enough to justify the hardship it's going to create for their diplomatic efforts.
That this comes at the same time that the US government is shutting down its commission on religious freedom is bad timing, but it's not the State Department's fault. The Senate is responsible for this because of the question of funding.
Now, Governor Perry may still be right that (a) foreign aid decisions should be based only on national security issues, and (b) this push is not only not going to help us in that regard, it's actually going to be harmful because it will further irritate relations with the Islamic world. I'm not sure I agree with (a), but if you do, (b) surely follows.