President Barack Obama has announced the expansion of his foreign policy goals to include the promotion of equal legal and social status for gays and lesbians worldwide. The move comes on the heels of a $10,000-per-plate fundraiser the president held last week with gay-rights leaders in New York City.

Under the new policy announced Tuesday, U.S. government officials are directed to lobby foreign governments and voters to win legal rights for gays and homosexuals, welcome their applications for asylum, fund foreign gay-advocacy groups, and even retaliate against groups that mistreat gays and lesbians.

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights,” said a Dec. 6 White House memorandum for agency heads.

The announcement follows Obama’s September speech at the United Nations, where he declared that “no country should deny people their rights of free speech and religion … [or] because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”

LGBT advocates have significant political clout in the administration, partly because Obama got roughly 75 percent of their votes in 2008, but also because many wealthy gays donate heavily to his campaign.

With a stalled economy, a $1 trillion annual deficit, real unemployment above 10 percent and the 2012 election 11 months away, Obama is under pressure to pull in every vote and dollar his can find.

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