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4:07 PM, December 6th, 2011

The United States will begin using American foreign aid to promote gay rights abroad, Obama administration officials said on Tuesday.

President Obama issued a memorandum directing American agencies to look for ways to combat efforts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality.

The new initiative holds the potential to irritate relations with some close American allies that ban homosexuality, including Saudi Arabia.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton underscored Mr. Obama’s remarks, in a speech delivered in Geneva in connection with International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

“I am not saying that 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.”

The directive comes after the Parliament in Uganda decided to reopen a debate on a controversial bill that seeks to outlaw homosexuality, a move that could be expanded to include the death penalty for gay men and lesbians. That bill had been shelved earlier this year amid widespread international condemnation.
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