At last month’s Pride celebration at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry made clear that he shares his predecessor’s clear-eyed support for LGBT rights as an important component of U.S. human rights policy (read a transcript or watch a video of Kerry’s speech). Referring to “a moral obligation to stand in pride with LGBT individuals and advocates,” Kerry called for “using our tools of development and diplomacy” to achieve LGBT rights abroad. He also underscored that “greater inclusion and protection of human rights, including those for LGBT people and for their communities, leads to greater stability, greater prosperity, and greater protection for the rights of human beings.
Coming together as a strong and unified coalition of 22 leading advocacy organizations, the Council has written to Secretary Kerry, commending his remarks as well as his strong Senate record on LGBT equality. We also stressed that his personal leadership will be critical to anchoring American support for globally fair LGBT human rights policies in three key policy areas.
- First, in global health policy, the Council is deeply concerned that some overseas PEPFAR implementers inappropriately may have allowed their personal views on homosexuality to undercut the broader, holistic public health policy goals that their program implementation is intended to support. Secretary Kerry can play a pivotal role in strengthening our HIV/AIDS impact by directing the Global AIDS Coordinator and other international health policy actors to ensure that contractors – like counterpart government employees – are required to distinguish clearly between their private views, when expressed, and fidelity to the public policy goals they are charged to advance.
- Second, this year’s State Department Human Rights Report to Congress underscores that hate crimes directed at LGBT people – often with the complicity of host government authorities – are a significant challenge to human rights in every corner of the world. Under Secretary Kerry’s leadership, the State Department can partner with the FBI and the Department of Justice to shape international law enforcement training programs that drive home the responsibility of law enforcement personnel to protect LGBT people from violence and hate crimes and to collect data on hate violence to help target government reponses. The Secretary equally can leave an important legacy by making this protection agenda a prominent part of his personal engagement with world leaders.
- Third, our attention to LGBT human and civil rights needs abroad requires hand-in-glove cooperation between State, on the one hand, and all foreign affairs agencies charged with advancing our development policy goals. Secretary Kerry can engage directly with his counterparts in relevant agencies to ensure that our policy and program goals are more tightly meshed. These programs increasingly should be brought into alignment with World Bank and other international financial institution resources, for maximum impact.
A bipartisan Congressional letter addressing concerns raised in the 2012 Human Rights Reports was also sent to Secretary Kerry in June. In the letter, a group of 93 Members of Congress asked that the U.S. Department of State brief Congressional staff on programs to address inappropriate actions by government officials vis-à-vis LGBT citizens. The letter also called for dialogue at the highest levels with governments that are complicit in LGBT-related human rights abuse. You can read the full letter here.
The Administration can make powerful progress toward an LGBT-fair world in its second term. We look to Secretary Kerry, as America’s senior diplomat and senior agency leader, to exert the leadership needed to empower that progress.