Archive for November, 2012

Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) at 20

David Buss, GLIFAA 20 Year Anniversary

David Buss, GLIFAA’s founding president

A State Department event on Wednesday captured the remarkable changes in how LGBT citizens are winning acceptance and fair treatment in our country – and how American diplomatic muscle is persuading other countries to follow that same path.

On Wednesday, the State Department celebrated the 20th anniversary of GLIFAA, an organization representing the interests of LGBT employees of foreign affairs agencies.  As late as the 1970’s, being gay was considered a security risk – reason enough to stop a career.  Even after that practice ended and GLIFAA was formed, the life of gay diplomats was hardly “gay.”  Gay and lesbian employees sometimes found themselves in less desirable jobs; their day-to-day behavior often drew heightened scrutiny; often they found an uncomfortable fit at starched and formal diplomatic events, including American ones; their family members received none of the benefits that straight families enjoyed.

These issues are part of GLIFAA’s history of course:  more to the point, they are history, full stop.   At Wednesday’s event, speakers traced the arc of that history in human terms.  David Buss, GLIFAA’s founding president, spoke of the loneliness he felt as an out-gay employee in the 80s – how indeed he had been forced to come out to his family, in order to keep his job.  Secretary Clinton asked Tom Gallagher, the Department’s first out-gay employee, to stand:  he was the Department’s earliest gay pioneer, having the courage to live his life openly in those difficult 1970’s.  She asked the same of the Council’s own Michael Guest, our country’s first out-gay, Senate-confirmed ambassador, who left his career over the Department’s unequal treatment of gay families and then worked in the Obama Administration’s Transition Team to chart a path to their resolution.

Time-wise, their stories are bookends to a story of remarkable change at the Department – change that should be credited, in full, to the personal leadership of the Secretary and her Counselor, Cheryl Mills.  But the visuals of GLIFAA’s celebration were equally striking, and equally telling.  Merely holding the event in the marble-columned Benjamin Franklin Room – State’s top-floor formal reception room, where vice presidential diplomatic dinners are held and new ambassadors traditionally are sworn in – crystallized just how far GLIFAA has come.   So, of course, did the unprecedented presence of a sitting Secretary of State, surrounded by a bevy of political appointees from a cross-section of foreign affairs agencies and the Office of Personnel Management. Continue reading ‘Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) at 20’

Remarks at the 20th Anniversary of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFFA)

Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, GLIFAARemarks: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
November 28, 2012

Click here to watch a video of the event.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all, very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Laughter.) Thank you, all. Thank you.

Yeah, that’s good. (Laughter.) Wow. Well, welcome to the Ben Franklin Room. (Laughter.) And congratulations on your 20th anniversary. I am so pleased to be here and to have this chance to join this celebration. Ken, thank you for your kind words and your efforts here to make this day possible. I am extremely pleased that Cheryl Mills, my friend as well as Chief of Staff and Counselor is here, so that those of you who may not have met her or even seen her, given how shy and retiring she is – (laughter) – can express your appreciation to her for her tireless efforts.

I’m delighted that Deputy Secretary Tom Nides is here. Tom, who some of you know, who you’ve had a chance to work with him, has been just an extraordinary deputy. Also let me recognize USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg. He’s been an unyielding advocate for the LGBT community at USAID. We also have a number of ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission, both past and present, some of whom have literally traveled from the other side of the world to be here. David, I’m talking about you. And we have Michael Guest with us, our country’s first out ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate and someone who’s remained an outspoken champion for LGBT rights, despite having to endure countless attacks and threats. Michael, why don’t you stand up so that you can be recognized? (Applause.) Continue reading ‘Remarks at the 20th Anniversary of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFFA)’

U.S. envoy meets Ugandan leaders over anti-gay bill

Repost from The Washington Blade

The top U.S. diplomat in Africa met over the weekend with leaders in Uganda to express concerns about an anti-gay bill pending before the country’s parliament that could be headed for a vote as soon as this week, according to the State Department.

Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokesperson, said during a daily briefing Monday that Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson met with high-profile leaders in Uganda “over the weekend” and raised concerns about the bill, which among other things would punish homosexual acts with life in prison. The questioning was initiated by the Washington Blade.

“As we have regularly said, we call on the parliament of Uganda to look very carefully at this because Uganda’s own Human Rights Council has made clear that if this were to pass, it would put the country out of compliance with its own international human rights obligations,” Nuland said. “And so, Assistant Secretary Carson had a chance to make that point again and our strong opposition to this, to the president, to the parliament and to key decision makers in Uganda.” Continue Reading

Uganda headed toward passing draconian anti-gay legislation

Repost from The Washington Blade

Movement on a draconian anti-gay bill in Uganda is raising concerns the legislation may be headed toward passage in the coming weeks, although it’s questionable whether the infamous death penalty provision remains in the bill.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality in the United States, said the legislation — which has drawn the ire of the international community for its proposed incarceration of gay people and concerns it would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts — seems likely headed for a floor vote in the coming weeks before the legislature adjourns on Dec. 14.

“All indications are that it’s really going to come up for a vote this time,” Bromley said. “We hear from several sources that it won’t come up until at least mid-week next week and probably maybe even a little bit later, but everyone we’ve talked to is pretty concerned that it really is going to come for a vote before the parliament recesses for the holidays, so sometime before mid-December.”

Media reports indicated that the bill on Friday had passed the committee of jurisdiction in the Uganda parliament.

Frank Mugisha, an activist coordinating Sexual Minorities Uganda, issued a statement to supporters on Friday decrying the legislation just before the committee acted on it.

“The bill does little more than to entrench stigma and prejudice, which will polarize the Ugandan society further and undermine public health efforts to combat the spread of HIV,” Mugisha said. “It places a total ban on public discussion of an issue whose existence cannot be wished away. If the bill is adopted, it will make Uganda a pariah in the international community. We therefore urge the Ugandan Parliament to reject this bill in its entirety.” Continue Reading

UNGA Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions

Brief compendium of articles and explanations on yesterdays vote on the Draft Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions:

Governments Condemn Extrajudicial Executions in Seminal UN Vote

Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to pass resolution A/C.3/67/L.36 condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Thank you to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission for this informative statement on the vote.

Historic First Condemnation of Killings Based on Gender Identity

(New York) An international coalition of organizations dedicated to human rights celebrated yesterday’s historic vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to pass resolution A/C.3/67/L.36 condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  The vote reversed the events of 2010 when the same body voted to strip the resolution of reference to “sexual orientation.” The UNGA also expanded upon its commitment to the universality of human rights by including “gender identity” for the first time in the resolution’s history.

The resolution, which is introduced biennially in the Third Committee, urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling upon states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. It was introduced by the Government of Sweden and co-sponsored by 34 states from around the world.

For the past 12 years, this resolution has urged States “to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including… all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation.”  Apart from Human Rights Council resolution 17/19, it is the only UN resolution to make specific reference to sexual orientation.  This year, the term “gender identity” was added to the list of categories vulnerable to extrajudicial killings.

At Tuesday’s session, the United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, presented an amendment that would have stripped the resolution of reference to “sexual orientation and gender identity” and substituted “or for any other reason.”  The UAE proposal was rejected in a vote with 44 votes in favor, 86 against, and 31 abstentions and 32 absent.  Another failed effort, led by the Holy See, would have stripped all specific references to groups at high risk for execution; however it was never formally introduced.

The Third Committee also retained language expressing “deep concern” over the continuing instances of arbitrary killing resulting from the use of capital punishment in a manner that violates international law, which some States led by Singapore attempted to have deleted. The Singapore proposal was rejected in a vote with 50 votes in favor, 78 against, and 37 abstentions and 30 absent.

The full resolution passed with 108 votes in favor, 1 against, 65 abstentions, and 19 absent. Continue reading ‘Governments Condemn Extrajudicial Executions in Seminal UN Vote’

U.S. Accomplishments During Its First Term on the UN Human Rights Council

The United States has been re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council and yesterday the U.S. Department of State released a statement highlighting the accomplishments during its first term. They note country-specific situations such as Syria, Libya and Burma among others.

The statement goes on to list accomplishments in promoting universal human rights such as freedom of assembly and internet freedom.  The release also highlights the work done to advance the rights of LGBT people around the globe.

Advancing the Rights of LGBT Persons: In June 2011 the Council adopted the first-ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. This resolution commissioned a groundbreaking UN report on the human rights abuses that LGBT persons face around the globe, and has opened a broader international discussion on how to best promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. As a co-sponsor of this resolution, the United States demonstrated its commitment to an active role in ensuring fair treatment and equality for all people.

You can read the full release here

Global Reactions to the U.S. National Election

Global Activists Meeting in Washington DC - The Council for Global Equality

Global Activists Meeting in Washington DC. Photo: Munya K.

From Uganda:

I stayed all night watching the results come in and at 4am on the election night, I joined hundreds of Ugandan activists, Diplomats, MPs and civil society at the US embassy in Kampala. Minute by minute we watched and when Obama got the required 270 electoral college votes, I simply sat down and enjoyed the celebration . My fellow activist Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (I have never seen him so over-joyed) danced as did many of the guests. It was merry. I could not stand to imagine what Mr. Romney would have done about passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, given that there are strong links between The Family, the US funder of the author of the bill Mr. Bahati, and Republicans.

The LGBTI community in Kampala held a music show at the national theatre later in the evening, but police stopped it after two hours. We are used to that. The big picture is that we have an advocate in the White House. Humanity prevailed……and we shall prevail. It may not come during my lifetime, because I can easily expire in this struggle, but one day, we shall be free.

Kikonyogo Kivumbi
Executive Director, Uhspa-Uganda

From Russia:

News of Obama’s victory couldn’t be more timely. Russian LGBT people are facing extreme pressures, with the “propaganda” laws aiming to take away their basic rights and making a stab at their dignity itself. The entire civil society is experiencing an all-out attack by the government, with civil freedoms rapidly diminishing. Despite these grave challenges, the LGBT movement is more vibrant and stronger than ever, with gay people ready to go out on the streets to protest, go to court to defend their rights. If this momentum is kept, anything is achievable, and with Obama’s victory we can hope that the diplomatic missions in Russia will continue taking on a leading role in supporting gay rights.

Coming Out St. Petersburg

From St. Lucia:

Kenita Placide

From Venezuela:

Obama’s victory is also a victory for LGBTI human rights defenders all around the world. The continuous support to our activities will continue, and we will therefore able to further develop our actions in view of getting equal rights in our countries. On the other hand, the example of Obama’s actions with regard to LGBTI rights is an example to be used to force changes where radical and fundamentalists forces still in place, such as it is the case in Venezuela, where no significant improvements had been achieved, and in many cases we may detect a withdraw with regard to previous situations.

Tamara Adrián
DIVERLEX Diversidad e Igualdad a través de la ley

From Nepal:

The US Embassy in Kathmandu had invited us to observe the US presidential election yesterday; there were many Nepali from all walks of lives observing the election. The US embassy also put a mock pooling booth and allowed us to vote with a fake ballot. Many of us voted for Obama.

With Obama’s reelection LGBTI rights will make significant improvements not just in the US but all over the world. Obama is very popular in Nepal and people know him also for being LGBTI friendly. This makes us feel easier as activists to work on LGBTI rights in Nepal and around the world.

Congratulations to you all. Congratulations to all of us.

Sunil Pant
Director, Blue Diamond Society

From Mexico:

We are celebrating the re-election of Obama for another four-year period. It means that we still have an ally to go forward in the international struggle for LGBTI human rights and lot of hope for human rights advances for LGBTI people within the USA.

We know that since his first election we had a lot of expectations, and that it has not been easy for him. But we hope that in these next four years he will be able to build a broad alliance with other governments and advance the protection of LGBTI people. It is a profound democratic project promoting welfare and protecting human rights in which immigrants and LGBTI are clearly included.

We congratulate all American citizens that supported Obama´s agenda of respect for social, cultural and sexual diversity as a key contribution towards a better world!

Gloria Careaga
ILGA Co-Secretary General

From Moldova:

For us, the victory of Barack Obama is a victory of equal rights for all people, not only in the United States but all over the world including the small countries like Moldova. USA is a very influential country and this effect is not aggressive but pro-development. The government of Barack Obama has raised debate of LGBT issues to a new level in the world and we are confident that in the next four years it will be able to do more. U.S. President’s clear position on the rights of LGBT people became clear position of US Embassies in our countries. With their help and support, we will be able to further develop of democracy principles and the importance of each person, regardless of his/her sexual orientation and gender identity.

Anastasia Donilova
Director of Gender DOC-M

From Spain:

In Spain the LGBT movement has received with happiness news about President Obama´s re-election. November 6 was a great day for LGBT people in Spain because our Constitutional Court confirmed that the law that permitted marriage for same sex couples since 2005 is completely constitutional. The right-wing party Partido Popular (now in the Government) that were against the law, yesterday accepted the High Court decision and declared that they will maintain the law without any change. And after that, we learned early morning that President Obama, who has supported LGBT equality, will have four years more. The US election is important for us because Fundación Triángulo is concerned not just about Spanish domestic issues but also for the global fight for equality everywhere.  And we know that, with Obama, the USA will be a great ally against discrimination for LGBT people all over the world. Congratulations to all North-American people.

Miguel Ángel Sánchez Rodríguez.
Fundación Triángulo, for Social Equality of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans.

From Canada:

We congratulate our American friends on an impressive election night yesterday. The election results saw many important achievements for LGBT rights in the United States. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) becomes the first openly gay member of the US Senate, while Maine and Maryland have approved same-sex marriage.  Though votes continue to be counted in Washington State, marriage equality remains in the lead. Overall, a great night for LGBT rights!

Helen Kennedy
Executive Director, Egale Canada

The Votes are In

Barack Obama Election 2012The votes are in:  Barack Obama has been reelected to serve our country for another four years.  Considered alongside the historic victories  for marriage equality and the election of LGBT candidates and allies to Congress, this is an election that advances equality in profound ways – both at home and abroad.  We congratulate the President on this historic victory and renew our commitment to partner with his Administration to support vigorous American leadership in the fight for LGBT human and civil rights.

In previous blogs (see related posts links below), we’ve laid out an international equality agenda that we hope the new Administration will pursue over the next four years.  That agenda includes:

  • A clear stand in our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy against the mistreatment and discrimination that impact too many foreign LGBT populations;
  • Employment protections for LGBT citizens, and a partnership with corporate America to encourage those protections in the overseas American workplace;
  • Greater efforts to ensure that faith, while respected and preserved, does not intrude into government responsibilities to ensure fair and equal treatment in our laws at home and in our assistance programs abroad;
  • Elimination of inequities in our country’s current immigration laws, which serve LGBT citizens so poorly; and
  • Using the foreign policy and developmental assistance tools of all relevant USG departments and agencies to advance respect for LGBT rights as a critical component of the values our country represents.

We reiterate that agenda today, and call for its bold pursuit.  The next four years will be a critical period for LGBT Americans to achieve many of the fairness goals that have eluded us for decades.  But in equal measure, American leadership will be crucial in ensuring that LGBT rights are fully integrated into U.S. and international human rights policy.  If we as a country are true to our founding values and ideals, we must stand clearly and forcefully for the fundamental freedoms and rights that have eluded LGBT people internationally, and to support policies in their defense.

Over four years, President Obama has stood firmly for these freedoms and rights.  He and Secretary of State Clinton have earned our respect and gratitude.  But there is more to accomplish if we are to anchor respect for LGBT people in policies and procedures, and to ensure that the leadership shown to date is an enduring feature of American diplomacy.

With the President’s continued leadership, our country can, in four years’ time, become a shining example of a nation that lives up to its ideals.  We pledge to be an avid partner in pursuing that goal as the new Administration and Congress take their places next year.

Related Posts:  

Will the Candidates Address Issues Impacting LGBT Communities at Home and Abroad in the Upcoming Presidential Debate?

Will LGBT Issues Feature in the Upcoming Presidential Debate?

Reactions coming in from LGBT advocates around the world

Look for future blogs on the global impact of the election results in the United States and our policy objectives for the next four years.

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