People sometimes ask Dr. Daniel Baer if things are getting worse for LGBT people, not better.
Baer, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor and a nominee for U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said he subscribes to the Ghandi theory of change: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."
Baer detailed what he sees as wins and challenges on LGBT rights internationally in a keynote address at the Metropolitan Community Churches general conference July 3.
Baer, who is openly gay, noted that LGBT celebrations have now taken place in every region of the world. He also reported that the U.S. has stepped up efforts to collect information about LGBT populations in countries around the globe.
But that work is not without challenges, Baer said.
Baer pointed out continued violence against transgender people, anti-gay laws in Russia and recent hate crimes in New York City.
He noted that while homosexuality is sometimes dismissed as a U.S. import outside the U.S., anti-gay laws abroad are often "relics of colonialism."
"In addition to old laws, we're now seeing a rash of bad new laws," said Baer.
But anti-laws have also been met with strong opposition, he said. In Uganda, which has been poised to pass what many have deemed a "kill the gays" bill, Baer said that more than 50 organizations have risen up to oppose the bill.
In Haiti, he said, more than 100 attended an LGBT documentary screening held in Port-au-Prince. In Rwanda, several groups and officials attended an LGBT reception at the U.S. Embassy, Baer said.
Much of the progress on LGBT rights internationally, said Baer, is also due to progress for human rights generally. Baer noted significant progress in the recognition of human rights since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"It is clear that we have come a long long way in a short amount of time," Baer said.
LGBT rights, he said, were a natural part of that advancement.
"You can't pick and choose who gets them and still call them universal," he said.