At a press conference in Senegal, U.S. President Barack Obama took the occasion of the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down DOMA to give his thoughts to Africa about issues of gay and lesbian rights.
At the Presidential Palace in Dakar, with Senegal President Sall at his side, Obama said, "The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they're treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa." Obama made it clear that he believed "everybody has to be treated equally."
Here is the relevant passage from Obama's remarks, which were released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary:
Now, this topic did not come up in the conversation that I had with President Sall in a bilateral meeting. But let me just make a general statement. The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they're treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa. So I want the African people just to hear what I believe, and that is that every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions. And when it comes to people’s personal views and their religious faith, et cetera, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there.
But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally. I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort.
That’s my personal view. And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.
So my basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you -- the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law -- people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally, and the good news is it’s an easy principle to remember.
Every world religion has this basic notion that is embodied in the Golden Rule -- treat people the way you want to be treated. And I think that applies here as well.
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