The move was criticized almost immediately by Republican challenger Rick Perry, who said Obama was "out of touch with America's values."

"Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America's interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers' money," Perry said. "But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong."

The order came as Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMueller moves ahead with Papadopoulos sentencing What's wrong with the Democratic Party? Just look at California BBC: Ukraine paid Cohen 0K to set up talks with Trump MORE told other diplomats at a meeting in Geneva Tuesday that cultural and religious differences could not legitimize discrimination against gays.

Clinton equated the struggle for gay rights to similar pushes along racial or gender lines, and criticized those nations seeking to criminalize homosexuality.

And while the administration's action was criticized by Republicans, gay rights groups applauded the move.

“As Americans, we understand that no one should be made a criminal or subject to violence or even death because of who they are, no matter where they live,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “Today’s 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.”