|President Barack Obama * file photo|
By Brody Levesque | BRUSSELS, Belgium -- In his address on Wednesday following talks with European Union and NATO leaders on Russia's military backed annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, U. S. President Barack Obama took aim again at the anti-gay Russian laws.
"We believe in human dignity - that every person is created equal, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or who you love, or where you come from," Obama said speaking before a gathering of European leaders which included Belgium's King Philippe, and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
Making a case against what he characterized as Russian aggression, the president reiterated criticism of what he sees as Russian intolerance spawned by the law passed last summer that outlawed promoting LGBT equality to children.
"Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights," he said. "Instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others, we can affirm the aspirations that we hold in common. That's what will make America strong. That's what will make Europe strong. That's what makes us who we are."
The president's speech and his argument that Western ideals and values of openness and tolerance would endure long past repression comes a day before he's scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City. The White House said that president hopes that the visit will focus on the shared commitment of both the Vatican and the U.S. to helping the poor and disadvantaged persons across the globe.
The Pope has made it clear in interviews given over the past year since taking the papal office that he is more inclined in relaxing Church policies that are in opposition to gay rights.
Last June, the Pope made statements that he refused to judge gay priests and also said that the church should not "interfere" in the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians.
Earlier this month in a wide-ranging interview with the major Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Serathe, the Pope- while reaffirming the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage- suggested that the Church could support some types of civil unions. He noted that state-sanctioned unions can result from the need to ensure rights such as access to health care.
"The church's longstanding teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman," Francis said, [but] "we have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety."