Dr. Maura O’Neill is the chief innovation officer and senior counselor to the administrator at USAID.

Last weekend we joyfully celebrated the engagement of our white son to an African-American woman. It wasn’t that many years ago in our country that they would be thrown in jail for dating, let alone wanting to marry. As a mom I can’t imagine how I would survive the phone call Judy Shepard received letting her know that her beloved son Matthew, a University of Wyoming student had been tortured and beaten. Just because he was gay. Around the world this story is too common, robbing people of dignity and opportunity  and our communities of the tremendous contributions that people who are free to be who they are can make.

Frank Mugisha from Uganda wrote to us after he learned that Claire Lucas and Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg at USAID were committed to conceiving a way to create a different future- now- for the hundreds of millions of LGBT globally. “I get phone calls everyday about people being abused by their own families, threatened by neighbors, refused health services, expelled from schools, all because they are LGBT.”

Frank knows firsthand the hardships LGBT individuals face in many countries. In 2011, his friend and fellow advocate at the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) was murdered after having won a lawsuit against a magazine that had identified him as gay and called for his execution.

In 2011, the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report outlining in detail the global pattern of human rights abuses against LGBT individuals. The report found that in every region of the world, LGBT individuals are subject to hate-motivated violence—including murder, so-called “corrective” rape, and torture—as well as discrimination in jobs, health care, and education.

To make matters worse, governments are often complicit in supporting such discrimination. In fact, 85 countries and territories criminalize LGBT behavior. And seven countries have a death penalty for same-sex sexual activity.

Fortunately, people around the world are recognizing that such violence, discrimination and governmental intolerance are no longer acceptable. In 2011 the United Nations passed a historic resolution endorsing LGBT human rights. President Obama issued a mandate that agencies involved in foreign aid and development, “enhance their ongoing efforts with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.”

At United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we know that progress is accelerated and lasting when we partner. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute (GLVI), the Williams Institute, and Olivia Companies joined us in creating the LGBT Global Development Partnership.

The LGBT Global Development Partnership is the largest initiative in the world to further LGBT equality in developing and emerging market countries. It works to strengthen LGBT civil society organizations, enhance LGBT participation in democratic processes and undertake research on the economic impact of LGBT discrimination.

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her 2011 address to the United Nations, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” I couldn’t agree more.

The LGBT Global Development Partnership has the potential to make a huge difference in the daily lives of LGBT individuals around the world and the communities in which they live. Because in countries where LGBT individuals can be legally evicted from their homes or arrested simply for being themselves, building connections and a community of empowered LGBT leaders is absolutely critical. I hope you will take a moment to watch the rest of the message from Frank, just one of the millions of committed LGBT advocates out there literally putting their lives on the line to create a better future for all of our children.

Learn more on how USAID is moving forward on LGBT equality.