UNITED NATIONS - The Obama administration has announced that it will use the supply of aid as well as diplomacy as a tool to improve gay and lesbian rights around the world. In a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted gay rights were equivalent to all other basic human rights, according to a transcript available here. It should never be a crime to be gay, she told her audience, which included representatives from countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence. Ms Clinton added that a countrys cultural or religious traditions was no excuse for discrimination. Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world, Mrs Clinton said in Geneva. Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality. The announcement, cited by the White House as the first US government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad, is also being seen as part of the Obama administrations outreach to gays and lesbians ahead of the 2012 election. Meanwhile, a memo from the Obama administration has directed US government agencies to consider gay rights when making aid and asylum decisions. Similar policies already exist for gender equality and ethnic violence. The White House said the announcement marked the first U.S. government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad. The order also directs U.S. government agencies to use foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance non-discrimination, and work with international organizations to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians. Obamas announcement is part of the White Houses outreach to gays and lesbians, a core Democratic constituency. Since taking office, Obama has advocated for the repeal of the militarys ban on openly gay service members and ordered the administration to stop enforcing a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. However, Obama has stopped short of backing gay marriage, saying only that his personal views on the matter are evolving. Gay rights groups praised the order as a significant step for ensuring that gays and lesbians are treated equally around the world. Todays actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people, said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy organization.