Archive for October, 2010

LGBT participation at the 2010 OSCE Review Conference Warsaw, Poland (video)

Mark Bromley, Council Chair of The Council for Global Equality as well as organizations such as ILGA-Europe, Campaign Against Homophobia-Poland, COC Netherlands and Genderdoc-Moldova are interviewed about sexual orientation and gender identity and how they relate to the The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Gay diplomat presses LGBT issues at int’l conference

photo: OSCE/Curtis Budden

Washington Blade | Chris Johnson | Oct 21, 2010

A gay diplomat led a U.S. delegation at an international conference earlier this month that touched on the importance of LGBT rights as a human rights issue.

Michael Guest, former U.S. ambassador to Romania, headed a delegation of about 25 U.S. diplomats during the human rights portion of an annual review conference for the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe. The review conference took place between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8 in Warsaw, Poland.

The Warsaw Review Conference was a primer engagement for trans-Atlantic countries to discuss human rights principles — including hate crimes against LGBT people and the freedom to association to have Pride celebrations across the globe — in anticipation of a later OSCE summit that this year is set to take place in December in Astana, Kazakhstan.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, Guest said that his sexual orientation made his designation as head of the delegation representational of the Obama administration’s stated principle that international LGBT rights are human rights.

“I also think that it made an impact with other delegations,” Guest added. “It was clearly a prominent feature of my biography, so there were a number of delegation members that come and it’s representative in their eyes as a sense of progress that an openly gay man would be appointed.”

Still, Guest said he thinks his 26-year service as a diplomat was the primary reason he was selected for the position and noted that during much of his career he focused on OSCE policy.

“I dealt with it at the time when all these changes were happening in Europe in 1989, 1990 and 1991 and when most of the commitments on fundamental freedoms and human rights were signed by the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union and the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe,” he said.

Guest attained notoriety in 2007 when he retired from the State Department in protest because it didn’t offer certain benefits — such as security training and free medical care — to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers. The situation has since been rectified by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, which took part in the review conference as an non-governmental organization, said the selection of an out gay man to lead the U.S. delegation was significant because previous administrations have been reluctant to incorporate LGBT issues in foreign policy.

“The United States in the past has been reluctant to address LGBT concerns within this forum,” Bromley said. “I think the fact that they selected Michael Guest as someone who is openly gay and works with organizations that promote issues on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was an important statement.” continue reading story

Secretary Clinton participates in the “It Gets Better” Campaign

Are Multinational Corporations Caring More About Their LGBT Employees Around the World?

With a record number of global-themed workshops, this year’s out and equal summit marked rising concern for corporate America’s attention to equality in the workplace abroad. Fourteen sessions—ranging from corporate equality in Hong Kong, India, and London to helping employee resource group leaders extend their memberships globally—became known as the “international track” at this year’s Summit. Some of this growing attention to global issues may be simply the fact that so many employee resource groups have accomplished their main task of securing equal benefits in the workplace here in the United States, and are looking for a new issue to tackle. But others at the Summit seemed to believe that corporations are preparing for the upturn in the economy and redoubling their efforts to retain and recruit the best talent. The talent argument is the number one business case for equal workplaces for LGBT people here and abroad.

The Council for Global Equality facilitated one information-rich workshop on expanding equality in the global workplace, which can be viewed here. The most recent global equality findings from the Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) were analyzed at this session. Although not part of how HRC currently scores corporations, the annual CEI collects information from over 600 American corporations about their policies and practices in overseas operations. Of the U.S.-based multinational corporations, only 54% currently extend their benefits to same-sex partners in all locations around the world. And only 52% have both sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies globally. Clearly, our collective work is not done.

Many of the questions that were raised in the “international track” were from employees in search of policy examples and best practical stories from other companies (often their own competitors) about how to overcome the challenges of becoming fully equal workplaces. For example, a company seeking to extend their “global” equality provisions to the real practice of equal benefits provision might need to convince a third-party insurance provider in a foreign country to cover same-sex partners.

Stephen Golden from Goldman Sachs gave a wonderful example of that company leaning hard on insurance providers in Japan to extend their health coverage to same-sex partners, which had a trickle-out effect on the entire financial services industry. The acts of one courageous company can truly impact LGBT employees in an entire sector or country. Other stories were more sobering, such as a lesbian employee of a major energy-sector company arriving in China to relocate with her partner, only to have the same-sex partner turned away at the border by Chinese immigration authorities.

While there are still many unmet challenges on the road to improve the workplaces for LGBT employees globally, the tone of this year’s Summit was optimistic and dynamic. The trend is clearly heading towards safer and more equal working environments for all employees everywhere. And with the increasing and combined efforts of employee group leadership, diversity and human resource management, Senior Executives and CEOs, as well as outside advocates and watchdog groups, we can help ensure that Corporate America stands for equality and fairness for LGBT people abroad.

UNHCR Roundtable on Asylum-Seekers and Refugees Seeking Protection on Account of Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Special Assistant Elizabeth Drew, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC, October 1, 2010

Thank you. It’s an honor to be here, participating in such a dynamic discussion on this critical issue. I also want to recognize the leadership of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for hosting this roundtable and commend the Agency’s ongoing efforts to enhance protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) refugees and asylum seekers.

The Obama Administration has made clear that our comprehensive human rights agenda includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The U.S. recently joined the United Nations General Assembly core group on LGBT issues, and earlier this month the U.S. co-sponsored the high-level LGBT panel at the UN Human Rights Council. We’re very fortunate to have Secretary Clinton leading the Department of State in elevating our human rights dialogues with foreign governments and advancing public diplomacy to protect the rights of LGBT individuals. We are also leading by example, extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, making it easier for transgender Americans to amend their passports, and including gender identity along with sexual orientation in the State Department Equal Employee Opportunity Statement. Continue reading on state.gov

Read more: UNHCR urges tolerance of displaced people persecuted for their sexuality

Discussion to Combat Hate Crimes and Promote Tolerance and Non-discrimination

 

Michael Gues | photo: OSCE/Curtis Budden

 

Warsaw, Poland, October 6, 2010 – During a discussion of efforts to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance and non-discrimination at an international human rights conference of the OSCE (which includes all of Europe and North America), the head of the U.S. delegation, former U.S. Ambassador and Council adviser Michael Guest, put aside his official statement to speak directly to delegates “from the heart.”  He offered a very personal and very forceful appeal to collected governments to implement effective hate crimes protections for all minority communities, including LGBT individuals.  He noted his personal experience as the victim of a gay hate crime, and he reminded diplomats in the room that the commitments they make have profound, daily consequences in the lives of ordinary people.  At the end of the meeting, in response to a hostile NGO that equated homosexuality with pedophilia and necrophilia, Guest noted how offensive such a connection was, and that such inflammatory allegations are in fact the sorts of statements that can lead to hate crimes.

While much of the meeting focused on hate crimes directed at religious and ethnic minorities, several other governments joined Guest in condemning LGBT violence, as did several NGOs.  As a civil society representative, Mark Bromley, speaking for the Council for Global Equality and joined by two Europe-based LGBT organizations, called on all governments that have not already done so to adopt hate crimes laws that recognize LGBT bias as an aggravating circumstance with enhanced and effective penalties.  Invoking the year-old Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the United States, and honoring the memory of Matthew Shepard, who was brutally assaulted twelve years ago this week, Bromley noted that “today, Matthew’s murder is recognized as a national tragedy; the fact that similar tragedies have been repeated so often across the entire OSCE region is a shameful reality.”  A representative of Amulet, an LGBT organization from Kazakhstan, also called on the OSCE to address targeted violence against LGBT communities in Central Asia.

Redeemed Lives, a U.S. organization, took the floor to speak against this “over-broad” human rights agenda.  Their representative spoke earlier in the two-week meeting to declare that “for some, freedom to safely self-identify as gay or lesbian is emancipation. For others, like myself, freedom from unwanted same‐sex attraction is emancipation.” Redeemed Lives suggested that “over-broad” definitions of hate speech and “fixed” definitions of gender identity have impeded the ability of individuals “to find therapists equipped to help them” overcome homosexuality, noting that “unwanted sexual attractions can . . . be effectively resisted and changed.” While others also spoke against the broad recognition of LGBT rights, including the NGO delegate who suggested the connection to pedophilia and necrophilia, these were tragically fringe statements, raised in the face of the OSCE’s effort to address LGBT violence as part of its broad tolerance and non-discrimination work.


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