Clinton Hails 'Momentous' New York Vote on Gay Marriage

WASHINGTON -- The state of New York's legalization of same-sex marriage marks a historic human rights victory that will give much-needed credibility and visibility to the international movement for equality for gays and lesbians, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.

Speaking at a gay pride event at the State Department, Clinton celebrated last week's move in the state she once represented in the Senate. She called New York's legislative approval of gay marriage a momentous and extraordinary event and said she hoped it would lend momentum to the campaign for gay rights.

Clinton also said much more needs to be done to end discrimination around the globe, a cause she has rallied American diplomats to embrace.

"This is an especially momentous and extraordinary time for us to meet," Clinton told a crowd organized by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, a group that includes employees of the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal offices that deal with foreign policy.

"The historic vote in New York ... I think gives such visibility and credibility to everything that so many of you have done for so many years," she said.

Although Clinton perhaps intentionally did not use the word "marriage" once in her remarks, her enthusiastic endorsement of the New York law puts her at the forefront of President Barack Obama's top aides in backing same-sex marriage. Obama himself has been hesitant on the issue, although he has instructed his administration to end discriminatory barriers for gay people at home and abroad.

Clinton recounted several administration initiatives to promote gay rights overseas, including U.S. diplomats marching in a gay pride parade in Slovakia, encouraging prominent activist Lady Gaga to perform in Italy and pushing the U.N. Human Rights Council to pass a resolution this month recognizing the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people(LGBT).

"This is one of the most urgent and important human rights' struggles of all times," Clinton said, calling on activists to redouble their efforts in the campaign. "We have a long way to go toward a world that affords all people the respect, dignity and equality that they are entitled to."

"All this progress is worth celebrating, but we cannot forget how much work lies ahead," she added. "Let's just face the facts: LGBT people in many places continue to endure threats, harassment, violence, including sexual violence, in public and private. They continue to flee their homes and nations and seek asylum, because they are persecuted for being who they are."