In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, President Obama called for “open societies” that “empower their citizens,” including homosexuals and women.

“No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” Obama said one day after the United States started allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military.

In a reference to women, Obama said, “no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs.”

Obama noted that the United State this week signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. “Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”

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