Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the UN

January 27, 2021 – Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a nomination hearing for Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as our ambassador to the United Nations. Over the past four years, we have sorely missed the creative and principled leadership that U.S. diplomats regularly bring to the corridors of the United Nations, and we are eager to see Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield reinvigorate our human rights commitments within that institution.

On that point, because the United Nations has provided such an important forum for promoting the human rights of LGBTIQ individuals globally, we look forward to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield setting out her human rights vision for the United Nations in more detail.  We trust both her words and actions when she gets to New York will prove what we know to be true: that all senior foreign affairs leaders in the Biden Administration will be LGBTIQ champions. We urge Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to highlight her leadership by meeting with LGBTIQ activists in her first weeks at the United Nations and by considering these three concrete gestures that would send a powerful message to the global community.

  • Chair a meeting of the “LGBTI Core Group” at the United Nations. The United States is one of the founding members of a core group of States that supports LGBTIQ engagement across the broad range of UN agencies and functions. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield should hold an ambassadorial-level meeting of that Core Group early in her term to demonstrate her commitment to its work and mandate.
  • Chair a meeting at the UN Security Council. Concerns over the human rights of LGBTIQ persons have only been raised once in the context of the Security Council, and that was at the request of Ambassador Samantha Power, when she was our UN ambassador. We ask Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to organize an “Arria-formula” meeting with LGBTI civil society while the United States holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this March.
  • Chair a meeting with the UN Secretary-General.  The UN Secretary-General has yet to offer high-level public remarks pledging his support for LGBTIQ rights and commitments.  Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield should ask him to join one of the two meetings identified above, or another appropriate public gathering, to call on the heads of all UN agencies to allocate core staff and funding to LGBTIQ issues, LGBTIQ-inclusive programs, and positions.

The incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez, recognized in his opening comments that the Trump Administration “undermined international protections for women, girls, and LGBTI individuals.” Senator Kaine noted that without U.S. engagement at the United Nations, and on the UN Human Rights Council in particular, human rights questions such as LGBTIQ equality would not be on the UN agenda at all.  And Senator Merkley suggested that LGBTIQ concerns could be on the agenda of President Biden’s upcoming Democracy Summit. 

Even President Trump, who despised the United Nations and undermined human rights norms at every turn, used his 2019 address to the UN General Assembly to pledge that the United States would work with other nations at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality and that the United States would “stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people who live in countries that punish, jail, or execute individuals based upon sexual orientation.”

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has an incredible chance to demonstrate our country’s commitment to LGBTIQ equality and to fulfill President Biden’s campaign pledge to do just that.  We eagerly anticipate her confirmation and her arrival in New York in time to chair the UN Security Council this March as its rotating president.

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