Love and Human RightsMillions celebrate LGBT Pride around the world (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender; there are variations, such as LGBTQI – adding queer and intersex). As I post this, Reykjavik Pride just wrapped up in Iceland and more events are about to start in Quebec Canada.

We’ve come a long way in achieving human rights and the tide seems to be growing. For example, in 2013 thus far Brazil, England, France, New Zealand and Uruguay legalized same-sex marriage.

Yet we still have a long way to go. It is illegal to be gay in 76 countries, with punishments that include forced psychiatric treatment, prison, whippings and death.

Love and Human RightsRussia’s new anti-gay laws have provided a lightening rod for international outcry. The fact that Sochi is hosting the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics has heightened attention and debate. Parallels have been drawn between the targeting of LGBT people in Russia and Jews in Germany during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

Russia’s discrimination has sparked a multi-faceted, international conversation. This could be very productive, as we must continue to grapple with how we get along across our differences as a global community. This requires authentic engagement with each other and with the matter at hand.

The United Nations human rights office just launched its first global public education campaign for LGBT equality, called ‘Free & Equal‘. High Commissioner Navi Pillay stated:

“The UniversLove and Human Rightsal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights – no exceptions, no one left behind… With this campaign, we want to help start millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.”

Dialogue and engagement led to the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And conversations and engagement could help realize it’s reality for all.

I’m reflecting on the power of conversation and engagement. I’ve seen the transformation that can occur when people are willing to have the necessary, difficult conversations. Peacemaking Circles have transformed hate, anger, revenge, pain and grief involving all kinds of circumstances, including horrific ones like rape and murder.

Circles are a values-based process and we talk about how we are going to talk before we begin discussing the issues. Similarly, how we have the conversation about human rights for all, including those who identify as LGBT, matters. We need to consciously uphold our universal values, especially love.

Part of the required conversation involves acknowledging love between individual people. It seems obvious that we should be able to love, marry and have consensual sex with whomever we choose. It’s all the ‘Same Love’ as hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis convey in their hit song (featuring Mary Lambert).

We need to be clear and more precise with our language and when identifying what we love and what requires change. The slogan ‘Love Russia, Hate Homophobia‘ that was on protestors’ banners is a good reminder. We must be careful to not inadvertently become discriminatory as we respond to issues like homophobia. It’s not Russia per se anymore than it was Germany during WWII. It does little good to condemn one form of discrimination while entrenching another form of discrimination.

The fulfillment of human rights, justice and peace requires love as a choice and love in action. In a great article about love and activism Mikhail Lyubansky affirms that the range of emotions such as anger and grief are welcome and may help identify the problem, but we need love to move forward in a constructive way: “Love points us in a particular direction. It orients us toward connection and relationship-building, toward healing and wholeness, toward beauty and goodness, toward the discovery of a shared humanity.”

Ultimately, we must realize that EVERYONE has inherent dignity and rights, and is worthy of love, just for being human. This is profound stuff.

Thus far, we humans haven’t been willing to fully rise up to this level of humanity. Yet I’m optimistic and know we can if we so choose. Millions of people around the world are sending out and responding to a call for change. A global awakening is occurring.

These are choices we all face. I don’t know about you, but I’m with Martin Luther King: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”