Archive for the 'U.S. State Department' Category

Kerry Likens Uganda Anti-Gay Law to Anti-Semitism and Apartheid

John KerryRepost from Reuters

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday likened new anti-gay legislation in Uganda that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germanyor apartheid South Africa.

“You could change the focus of this legislation to black or Jewish and you could be in 1930s Germany or you could be in 1950s-1960s apartheid South Africa,” Kerry told a group of reporters. “It was wrong there egregiously in both places and it is wrong here,” he added.

Kerry said the legislation signed by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday was “atrocious” and expressed concern at mounting discrimination against gays in 78 countries around the world. Continue Reading

Anti-LBGT Rhetoric in The Gambia

Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State

Washington, DC
February 19, 2014

The United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh in his National Day speech on February 18. All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation. We call on the Government of The Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms belong to all individuals. The United States stands by you no matter where you are and no matter who you love.

State Department Expresses “Deep Concern with Nigeria’s Enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act”

Press Statement:
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 13, 2014

The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria’s enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.

Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.

People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.

We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.

Related Content:

Nigerian Leader Signs Law Banning Marriage – ABC News

President Jonathan Signs Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into Law – NAIJ

Protecting and Promoting LGBT Rights in Europe

Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborRemarks by Uzra Zeya
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
ILGA-Europe Annual Conference 2013
Zagreb, Croatia
October 24, 2013

First, thank you very much Evelyne and to ILGA Europe for including me in this panel. I am so glad to be here.

In response to your question, the most important thing to understand about the work of the U.S. government is that protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a foreign policy priority. That’s why I am here in Zagreb to deliver this message personally. The fundamental principle that guides our LGBT work is that the human rights of LGBT persons are not different than or separate from the human rights of everyone else. All people deserve to be treated with dignity no matter who they are or who they love.

Looking across the region over 2013, there is a lot to be excited about. Both France and the U.K. have legalized same sex marriage and more countries are taking steps to make sure that LGBT persons can make the choices that work for them and their families. It is also encouraging to see new anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

But the United States remains extremely concerned about negative trends in a number of countries. The anti-gay propaganda law in Russia and the proposed law to strip gay parents of their parental rights are alarming. Laws, even when it is unclear how they will be enforced, are incredibly important. They are a statement of a country’s values and they have a teaching effect. Laws that validate discrimination, as we have seen in Russia, can lead to an increase in violence and harassment. This is particularly true when authorities don’t act to protect all of their citizens and when they fail to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by or against particular groups.

I’ve singled out Russia but, as you all know, it is not the only place where there were disturbing events in 2013. We saw too many Pride and IDAHO marches confronted by counter-protestors, or, as just happened in Serbia, canceled altogether because of the threat of violence. Throughout Europe, LGBT persons continue to be harassed and discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and many other areas of public life.

There is clearly work to be done. In the United States, we pursue this work guided by a Presidential Memorandum which lays out five main lines of effort: Decriminalization of LGBT status and conduct, protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, foreign assistance to protect human rights, swift response to violence against LGBT persons, and engaging international organizations to fight LGBT discrimination.

We raise the human rights of LGBT persons in our diplomatic engagement at all levels – from the President, to Secretary Kerry, to our Ambassadors and officers at post and in Washington. Our Ambassadors and officers march proudly in Pride celebrations. Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do; it is fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights. As societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, joined together by common values and common interests.

The U.S. also knows that change on the ground comes from within. At the State Department, same-sex partners and spouses at overseas missions enjoy the same benefits allowed by law as all our employees’ families. We’ve included a category for same-sex partners in our personnel system. It is now easier for transgender Americans to change the gender on their passport. And we’ve stated unequivocally that we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We regularly engage with and support civil society organizations to ensure our work “does no harm” and supports long-term change. In December 2011, then-Secretary Clinton launched the Global Equality Fund to support civil society advocates working to strengthen the human rights of LGBT persons. The United States has partnered with eight-like minded governments – France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark – as well several foundations to raise and allocate more than $7 million dollars for projects in over 50 countries. The Fund provides emergency legal, medical, and relocation assistance to LGBT individuals and activists; capacity building programs to civil society organizations; and, through our embassy small grants programs, short-term funding to nascent LGBT organizations. This year, we’re excited about the Fund’s focus to increase the capacity of transgender organizations in Europe to document and respond to incidents of violence targeting transgender people.

###

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Remarks at the LGBT Ministerial Event

Secretary of State John F. Kerry September 26, 2013, New York, New York

SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, thank you very much (inaudible).  Thank you, and I apologize to all of my colleagues for being a little bit late.  I’m sorry about that.

But it is an enormous honor to be part of this event, which is the first of its kind in the history of the United Nations, and I think we should take pride in that.  I thank the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, who I visited with in Washington just last week, and all of our colleagues who are here for joining together in an historic statement.

We really do send a clear and compelling message by coming together today, and it’s not just in support of gays and lesbians around the world; it’s really in support of the founding values of this institution.

When the United Nations was formed, the founders declared this purpose: “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and in the dignity and worth of the human person.”  The human person, not one human person, not certain human persons, but the human person, all people.  And for too long, with respect to affirming the dignity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender persons, this organization fell short of meeting that obligation, as did many entities in the world and many of our countries.  With our work together over the past several years, we have made almost unfathomable progress in the rapidity with which people have come to break down walls of injustice and barriers of prejudice, really quite stunning.  And I think we should all acknowledge that we are living up to, in this initiative and in other efforts that have taken place in the past years, the founding principles of the United Nations, and in many ways, the universal values that organize many of our societies.

For its part, the United States and the Obama Administration is fully committed to this work.  I took personal satisfaction this past year when the United States Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act – and I say personal satisfaction because I was one of 14 senators who voted against that when it was passed – and that prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages.  That decision paves the way for policies and programs that support all married couples, regardless of their sexual orientation.

We also believe the United Nations is a powerful platform to advance our support for the human rights of LGBT persons.  Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights, which are at the foundation of American foreign policy, and I think the foreign policy of most of our colleagues, if not all of our colleagues here.  We all know that as societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, and they become partners, all of whom are joined together by common values and common interests. Continue reading ‘Secretary of State John Kerry’s Remarks at the LGBT Ministerial Event’

Russian Civil Society Leaders Inspire

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaulRepost From Ambassador Michael McFaul 

Despite a packed G-20 schedule filled with meetings on economic issues and the situation in Syria, President Obama also took the time while in St. Petersburg to meet with representatives of Russia’s civil society. He holds such meetings in nearly every country he visits, because, as he told these leaders, he believes that “a country’s strength ultimately comes from its people and that as important as government is — and laws — what makes a country democratic and effective in delivering prosperity and security and hope to people is when they’ve got an active, thriving civil society.” These engagements are an opportunity not only to hear candid views about the country in which these representatives live, but also about the United States.

The meeting in St. Petersburg was no exception. The President, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and I met with a fascinating group of activists that included Boris Pustyntsev, Ivan Pavlov, Yevgeniya Chirikova, Yana Yakoleva, Dmitry Makarov, Igor Kochetkov, Yelena Milashina, Olga Lenkova, and Pavel Chikov. The group represented a broad cross-section of Russian NGOs and activists who work on issues such as human rights, the environment, media freedom, rights of business entrepreneurs, LGBT rights, and fighting corruption, racism, and discrimination.

Our colleagues gave President Obama a strong sense of the challenges facing civil society leaders in Russia today, especially new laws that place restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs and discriminate against the LGBT community. Like others around the world, the President has been following with particular concern the increased climate of intolerance and violence that have accompanied the new law affecting the LGBT community, and he had the chance to hear from two courageous LGBT activists from St. Petersburg who described the challenging environment for their work. Participants urged him to keep human rights, including LGBT rights, on his agenda; to correct mischaracterizations of American policy and laws (especially the false analogy between Russia’s “foreign agent” law and U.S. legislation on lobbying); to empower multilateral organizations to pressure the Russian government to meet its international commitments; and to stand up against discrimination and for freedom of assembly and expression.

The President learned not only about the situation in Russia but also how the Administration’s policies on the environment, whistle-blower protections, and Syria affect the work of civil society activists in Russia. President Obama acknowledged the complexities of balancing national security and individual rights on a variety of issues, but he also expressed faith in the power of American democratic institutions, including a free press, to provide the proper context for resolving specific issues and ultimately to make the American system more democratic. President Obama gave particular attention to the role of civil society in making governments more representative and accountable. He noted his own background as a community organizer, highlighting the significant and important role civil society plays in bettering the lives of ordinary people.

President Obama carefully took notes and responded to all of the questions raised during the meeting. He was clearly energized intellectually and inspired. A meeting planned for forty minutes turned into almost an hour-and-a-half interactive discussion. The President pledged to consider every concrete proposal and later tasked me to follow up on some practical ideas proposed by our roundtable participants.

In the car ride to the Air Force One after the event, the President commented on the articulate, passionate, and practical presentations these leaders had made, and we had a very wide-ranging discussion about civil society in Russia, civil society and human rights around the world, and democracy more generally. After two long days at the G-20, I was struck by how invigorated the President seemed after the discussion.

I thank our Russian participants for such a stimulating session and, like the President, applaud their courageous and important efforts in Russia.

Michael McFaul is Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation.

Ambassador Eisen Marches in Pride Parade

Photo: Raymond Johnston

Photo: Raymond Johnston

Repost from The Prague Post

U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen marched in the Prague Pride 2103 Parade, carrying the second banner after one held by the organizers. He participated in the first half hour of the march, dropping out about half way but two Prague embassy banners made it to the end, as did another one from the US Embassy in Berlin.

The Berlin banner carried sayings by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama in support of human rights and gay rights respectively. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” the sign said next to a stylized picture of Obama.

“All men are created equal. The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened,” the banner said next to Kennedy’s likeness. Another embassy banner quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton equating human rights and gay rights.

In another show of support for gay rights, the Gloriette, a small but highly visible building in the US Embassy complex, is being lit at night in a rainbow of colors until Aug. 18, the end of the week-long Prague Pride Festival. “The Gloriette is a garden pavilion perched high on the hill behind the U.S. Embassy in Prague. It flies the American flag and is the most visible sign of the U.S. presence in the Czech Republic. During Communist rule the Gloriette provided a beacon of inspiration as a symbol of freedom and democracy,” the embassy said on its website.

“The Embassy of the United States of America in Prague is proud to participate in the annual Prague Pride Festival for the third consecutive year,” the statement continued, adding that it supported the festival through a grant program. Continue Reading

Pro-gay U.S. firms face hurdles in antigay Russia

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

The company has a rock-solid policy of “inclusion and diversity” in the workplace and numerous LGBT employees, and it was one of the prominent Bay Area firms to sign amicus briefs in favor of overturning Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It also has interests in Russia, including a $1 billion investment to help the country develop its own Silicon Valley. Last week, the company, Cisco Systems, opened the Cisco Experience Center at the site of Russia’s embryonic Silicon Valley outside Moscow, “marking an important milestone in Cisco’s multiyear investment in sustainable innovation within the Russian Federation,” a senior executive blogged.

But Russia has become a darker place since Cisco committed the money in 2010 – jailing perceived opponents, spitting in the face of America and escalating attacks on gay rights.

In the past year, the regime of President Vladimir Putin has banned same-sex couples from adopting children, violently broken up gay pride parades and, last month, outlawed as “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” the espousal of values Cisco and other U.S. companies operating in Russia embrace.

That is already an issue here. Demonstrations against its antigay laws have been held in several American cities, including outside the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. Boycotts of Russian vodka and the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi are being pushed, and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is calling on California’s public pension funds to cease investing in Russian enterprises.

Even President Obama, annoyed with Putin for granting asylum to National Security Agency leader Edward Snowden, has stepped into the fray. “I’ve been very clear that when you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country,” he toldJay Leno last week.

Referring to the Sochi Games, Obama said, “I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.”

U.S. groups speak out

But Russia can. Under the law, gay or “pro-gay” foreigners face up to 14 days in jail and expulsion from the country. Several Russian parliamentarians said they believe the law will be enforced during the Games, as it was last month against four Dutch tourists who were jailed for filming a forum organized by a local human rights group. Presumably employees of U.S. companies who are suspected of passing on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” in Russia could face the same threat.

Calls to boycott the Games have been received negatively, including by the Russian LGBT Network, which called on the international community to “speak up, not walk out.”

Some U.S. groups are speaking up. They include the Council for Global Equality in Washington, whose lawyers in Moscow wrote a memo in June concluding that the laws “will directly impact multinational companies operating in Russia who have clear and well-publicized LGBT equality policies” – such as Cisco and several other Bay Area and American companies.

“Their willingness to transfer LGBT individuals to work in Russia will be an issue given the likely concern of such companies about placing LGBT individuals in Russia and the concerns of such individuals about living in Russia,” the memo states.

“It could also give rise to concern by the companies about the manner in which they publicize their LGBT policies, as well as influencing their recruitment decisions, the application of their stated LGBT policies in Russia.”

If Russian courts’ rulings on similar laws are any precedent, appeals against the provisions will probably go nowhere. International courts could see things differently, although the memo doesn’t speculate what effect they might have. ( sfg.ly/15SD7Un).

Cisco, which has dozens of engineers and other employees in Russia – with more coming to staff the innovation center – had no comment. So it’s difficult to know how aware the company is of the issue, if it’s in contact with its lawyers, or if it is formulating a response.

“We’ve had interest from companies in our memo, but what they do with it when they kick it up the chain, we don’t have a handle on,” said Julie Dorf, senior adviser at the Council of Global Equality. “It’s hard to get a read on what they’re doing behind the scenes.”

Inconsistent approach

But, Dorf said, it’s a tough issue for corporations that have operations in countries with different views on equality than their own. “We would like corporations who are positively pro-equality in the workplace to extend their policies globally, without exception,” she said, “but it’s not a simple act. There are enormous differences, especially with host countries that don’t share the same values.

“The vast majority of multinational corporations that support full LGBT equality in the workplace in the United States are inconsistent about their application of those principles and policies abroad,” she said.

The Facts on LGBT Rights in Russia

The Facts on LGBT Rights in RussiaIn recent weeks, public attention to the ongoing crackdown on LGBT rights in the Russian Federation and its potential impact on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February 2014 has increased significantly. President Obama addressed the issue on the Tonight Show, saying:

“I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently. They’re athletes, they’re there to compete. And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.” 
– President Obama

The controversy is likely to escalate as President Obama heads to St. Petersburg, Russia in early September for a G-20 Summit and potential bilateral meetings with President Putin. This fact sheet summarizes the developments in Russia and the guidance that we have received to date from our colleagues in Russia. Read the Fact Sheet Here.

House Members Urge Secretary Kerry to Protect LGBT People at 2014 Sochi Olympics

Jerrold Nadler, Official Portrait, c112th CongressA bipartisan group of 87 House members have signed on to a letter asking Secretary Kerry, “what diplomatic measures the State Department is planning to take to ensure that American LGBT athletes, staff and spectators, and their supporters, are not arrested, detained or otherwise penalized during the Sochi Games.”

The effort was lead by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who in a press statement said, “The United States must do everything we can to protect those Americans who are traveling to Russia for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this winter. Russia’s anti-LGBT laws defy basic human rights that should be guaranteed to everyone at all times and in all places. These laws are completely contrary to the uniting spirit of the Olympics, which brings diverse nations together in a spirit of peaceful and friendly competition.”

Read the full letter here.

You can find the list of names who signed on here.

Read Rep. Nadler’s press statement here.


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