(Trenton) -- The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Caucus of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee excoriated New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith for saying he does “not construe homosexual rights as human rights" and for insinuating that U.S. opposition to anti-LGBT legislation negatively impacts our country’s engagement in Nigeria.

Smith’s comments are particularly offensive given that he serves as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations —a position from which human rights should be defended, not attacked.

“It’s simple: LGBT rights are human rights. It’s shocking that Smith — or anyone in his position — would make such close-minded comments to the contrary. For a person in his position to dehumanize such a large segment of our society and to suggest that members of the LGBT community are creating hurdles for U.S. diplomats is appalling on so many levels,” said Chris Hillmann, LGBT Caucus Co-Chair. “Representative Smith should apologize for trying to pit some people’s human rights against those of of others.”

"Once again our Congressman has disrespected his constituents and put people in danger half way across the globe. With all the tragedies occurring in Africa surrounding the LGBT community one would think that a Congressman would understand his words can be destructive. We must speak as one voice to protect all lives from atrocities no matter where they happen. All lives matter," said Ed Zipprich, an openly-gay City Councilman in Red Bank, New Jersey.

According to the national LGBT advocate group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Smith’s comments came on a day when 12 men were reportedly arrested for simply attending an alleged LGBT wedding in Nigeria. Not surprisingly, Smith received a “0” on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard.

By contrast, President Obama made history by acknowledging LGBT people during his recent State of the Union Address, and he recognizes that gaining equal protection under the law for the LGBT community must be part of the larger discussion of human rights and national security.

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