2014 Winter Olympics

OBAMA LEGACY: A quiet mission to export gay rights overseas

While the world was watching America's gay rights transformation, the Obama administration was pursuing a quieter mission to try to export the same freedoms overseas to places like sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe.

The U.S. has deployed its diplomats and spent tens of millions of dollars to try to block anti-gay laws, punish countries that enacted them, and tie financial assistance to respect for LGBT rights. It was a mission animated in part by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's declaration that "gay rights are human rights."

Yet the U.S. encountered occasional backlash, including from some rights groups that said public pressure by...