There’ve been many encomia to Hillary Clinton over the last week, all richly deserved. To these we add our own deep measure of heartfelt praise to a national leader whose energy and commitment in integrating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people into U.S. foreign policy has shown a clear-eyed understanding that, as she said in her landmark December 2012 speech at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, “gay rights are human rights.”
Secretary Clinton’s four-year legacy in integrating LGBT rights into our country’s international human rights policy goes far beyond even the expectations framed by a rapidly changing recognition in this country that the equality of LGBT people is a moral imperative. Under Clinton’s direction:
- Annual human rights reports now include LGBT-specific sections, and a new “toolkit” is helping our embassy personnel address LGBT human rights issues in foreign countries and cultures;
- Regional bureaus, particularly WHA and AF, have integrated LGBT equality goals into their work programs;
- The Department’s public diplomacy tools – including speakers, international visitors, and other exchanges – are being used to increase international acceptance and understanding of LGBT people;
- The Bureau of Consular Affairs has revised passport and reports of birth abroad forms to accommodate same-sex couples and parents, and has simplified the ability to change gender markers for passport issuance;
- The Department has shown leadership in addressing LGBT human rights issues in the Human Rights Council, and at the United Nations in New York;
- The Department’s Democracy Fund is being used to support LGBT civil society needs, and a new Global Equality Fund will expand that support in exciting new directions, in support of U.S. democratic and foreign assistance goals; and
- The families of gay and lesbian Foreign Service personnel now enjoy the same benefits as those enjoyed by their straight counterparts.
These and other smaller, less-visible steps reflect Secretary Clinton’s clear-eyed appreciation that we, as a country, honor our founding principles of equality, fair play, and freedom only when those principles are applied universally to all minorities, all people. The clarity and consistency of her call for other countries to respect the rights of LGBT people has lent new integrity to our human rights policy. Equally, it has restored the credibility of government to many of us who have long waited for the leadership that Secretary Clinton has so admirably shown.
The Council has enjoyed a close partnership with many State Department political appointees whose immediate time in government service is over. We look forward to working with them, and indeed with Secretary Clinton as well, in other capacities in the future. However, Secretary Clinton’s strongest legacy is the Department she leaves behind: one where career professionals understand that international LGBT rights are firmly included in what we as a country must advocate, and where those professionals feel it is politically safe to stand proudly for the inclusive values on which our country was founded.
For that as much as any of the specific accomplishments cited above, we say thank you to Secretary Clinton. The world is a better place because of her tiresome advocacy of fairness and equality. So, indeed, is our country.