Barack Obama has called on the world to stop persecuting marginalised groups, including LGBT people, in his final address to the United Nations General Assembly as the US president.
In an impassioned speech on Tuesday, he urged leaders and ordinary people to break out of restricted and outdated beliefs and ideologies that continue to hold the world back.
“I do not believe progress is possible if our desire to preserve our identities gives way to an impulse to dehumanise or dominate another group,” said Obama.
“If our religion leads us to persecute those of another faith, if we jail or beat people who are gay, if our traditions lead us to prevent girls from going to school, if we discriminate on the basis of race or tribe or ethnicity, then the fragile bonds of civilisation will fray. The world is too small, we are too packed together, for us to be able to resort to those old ways of thinking.”
Obama also acknowledged that the world is changing, that some progress has been made and that citizens are increasingly no longer prepared to accept abuses against them.
“Despite the real and troubling areas where freedom appears in retreat, the fact remains that the number of democracies around the world has nearly doubled in the last 25 years,” he said.
“In remote corners of the world, citizens are demanding respect for the dignity of all people no matter their gender, or race, or religion, or disability, or sexual orientation, and those who deny others dignity are subject to public reproach.”
Obama has without a doubt been the most LGBT-affirming president in US history. He has repeatedly called for LGBT equality in the US and around the world, supported same-sex marriage and acted to change discriminatory laws in his country. Last year, he appointed Randy Berry as America’s first ever LGBT Human Rights Envoy.