President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both pledged to use American foreign aid to promote rights for homosexuals abroad.
This policy was immediately attacked by Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Senator Rick Santorum who are both competing for the Republican nomination for the presidency.
The position by the Obama administration and the reaction by the Republican contenders mixes principle with politics.
The Obama campaign correctly views homosexuals as part of the Democratic constituency and its entire campaign strategy is based on energizing the Democratic base to come out with the same enthusiasm manifested in 2008.
The Republican base is dominated by those who oppose the homosexual lifestyle and both Perry and Santorum want to be recognized as champions of social conservatism an area where they believe they have a relative advantage over the new frontrunnerNewt Gingrich.
Obama and Clinton will undoubtedly claim that they are not directly advocating a homosexual lifestyle but are merely trying to protect people with such proclivities against discrimination and even violence and murder.
However, when the Secretary of State compares rights for this community to women's rights and civil rights the distinction tends to get blurred.
Governor Perry denounced the speeches as "war on traditional American values" and on "people of faith" by promoting a lifestyle that religious Americans consider abhorrent.
Santorum also linked the administration's support for homosexual rights at home with the new foreign policy and accused Obama of dishonesty noting that Obama “said he’s for traditional marriage, and now he’s promoting gay lifestyles and gay rights, and he’s fighting against traditional marriage within the courts, and I think he needs to be honest.”
Aside from the domestic repercussions of the new policy it also remains to be seen how such a policy can play out internationally. The original Obama administration ovetures chores to the Muslim world were suffused with a heavy dose of non-judgmentalism. In the area of women's head covering and other issues the United States would not presume to impose its values on the Muslim world. That approach may have been flawed from the outset but the administration has not explicitly repudiated it.
Something similar is occurring in US relations with Russia, with Hillary Clinton again prominent as the point person. Secretary Clinton has denounced the illegalities in the Russian election. The Russian-American "reset" was based on the premise that the United States would not go public in attacking the authoritarian aspects of Putin's Russia. Again, as with Syria, the administration's policy reversal may be welcome, but the administration should either admit the policy change or explain how the latest actions conform with the "reset" policy.