Homophobia at Pompeo’s State Department

Last month, Dr. Kiron Skinner disappeared from her job as Secretary Pompeo’s Director of Policy Planning, allegedly ousted over poor and abusive leadership that included use of homophobic language.

Bravo, we guess:  by this point in our country’s history, surely homophobic leadership is beyond the pale.

But there’s been no public statement by Secretary Pompeo on the ouster, of course, so Pompeo’s motives in the dismissal are the stuff of conjecture.  Nor is there public evidence otherwise that Pompeo was displeased personally by anything that Skinner might have said:  no rumors of internal “team talk” to make clear that he won’t tolerate homophobic remarks, and no leaked internal memoranda to suggest concern about Department morale.

And importantly, despite a scathing Inspector General report rebuking yet another of Pompeo’s assistant secretaries for complicity in derailing an employee’s promotion partly for homophobic reasons, that assistant secretary remains in place.

So whatever the reasons for Skinner’s departure, one thing is clear:  Pompeo continues to tolerate homophobia in the workplace.

The aide in question — Kevin Moley, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs — reportedly green-lighted cancellation of the selection process of a new Deputy Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (IO/HRH) after the leading candidate was found to be someone that one of his senior bureau political appointees had “…found to be not ‘trustworthy’…,” partly because of “….his relationship with the gay and lesbian community.”**

There are regulations in place at State to guarantee a fair workplace and guard against these sorts of reprisals.  So why is Moley still there?

Pompeo himself, of course, hails from a fundamentalist religious culture and has characterized being gay as a “perversion.”  At his confirmation hearing to serve as Secretary of State, he notably declined to walk away from that characterization when pressed by Sen. Corey Booker. And in a speech to Concerned Women for America at the Trump hotel last week, he once again professed his personal belief, which is quickly becoming State Department policy, that human rights should be grounded in religion: “I know where those rights came from.  They came from our Lord, and when we get this right, we’ll have done something good, not just I think for the United States but for the world.”

But Pompeo’s personal views aren’t the question here.  Rather, the federal hiring and firing process is subject to federal rules, regulations and practices, and Pompeo’s role as leader of a diverse federal workplace makes it imperative that he ask Moley to leave.

There’s speculation that were Moley, like Skinner, an African-American and/or a woman, by now he would have been let go — or that if Skinner enjoyed Moley’s political connections, she might still be at Policy Planning’s helm.  Who knows?

But what we DO know is that Pompeo hasn’t honored his leadership obligations to ensure a fair government workplace.  Moley should be shown the door — and Pompeo should make clear to appointees and employees alike that homophobia has no place in the workplace he oversees.

**“Review of Allegations of Politicized and Other Improper Personnel Practices in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs,” Office of Inspector General, United States Department of State, August 2019, p. 18.

A Call for Human Rights Submissions to U.S. Embassies

The Council for Global Equality urges LGBTI organizations and advocates around the world to submit human rights information to U.S. embassies for the State Department’s annual reports on human rights practices and religious freedom.  These reports are prepared yearly by the State Department based on submissions from U.S. embassies and they both provide opportunities to highlight violations of human rights targeting LGBTI individuals globally.

The two reports are distinct, but the embassies generally collect information for the two reports at the same time each year — usually in September with drafts due to Washington later in the fall.  Now is the time to reach out to U.S. embassies with information that they can include in both reports.

The annual human rights reports have included a dedicated section on the rights of LGBTI individuals since 2009.  Given the current political context, however, we fear that the Trump Administration could take steps to limit this reporting next year, and that embassies are increasingly reluctant to engage with LGBTI groups in this climate.  As a result, we urge our colleagues around the world to make a special effort this year to ensure that U.S. embassies have the information they need to offer robust reports to Washington on LGBTI issues.

To date, the annual religious freedom reports have included very little information on prohibitions that limit LGBTI communities and LGBTI-affirming ministries from practicing their faith, including the affirmative decisions of religious congregations to marry or bless the relationships of same-sex couples.  Nor have they contained information on the use of religiously justified laws to persecute LGBTI individuals or faith institutions.  The Council is particularly interested in collecting that information to inform future religious freedom reports and would appreciate your partnership in submitting those stories to U.S. embassies.

A simple guide to providing information to U.S. embassies for these reports is available here.  The final reports are public documents and can be found on the State Department’s website at: Annual Human Rights Reports and Annual Religious Freedom Reports.

Rep. Titus Introduces GLOBE Act to Protect LGBTI Rights Worldwide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 22, 2019
Contact: Kevin Gerson
Kevin.Gerson@mail.house.gov

Washington, D.C. – Today Representative Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District introduced the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act with the support of top House Democrats and leading LGBTI advocacy organizations. The legislation outlines a vision for U.S. leadership in the protection of LGBTI rights around the world.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the creation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise the State Department on human rights – and appointed several commissioners with troubling records on LGBTI issues. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has refused to fill the State Department position of Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

The GLOBE Act would codify in law the Special Envoy position, require the State Department to document cases of human rights abuses and discrimination against LGBTI people around the world, and institute sanctions against foreign individuals who are responsible for egregious abuses and murders of LGBTI populations. Additionally, the bill ensures fair access to asylum and refugee programs for LGBTI individuals who face persecution because of their sexual orientation.

“No person should suffer from discrimination because of who they are or whom they love,” said Congresswoman Titus (NV-1). “Under the Trump Administration, the U.S. is failing to protect the rights of LGBTI people at home and abroad. This bill will help restore our role in promoting LGBTI rights around the world and punishing regimes that persecute people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Around the world, far too many people face discrimination, harassment, and even violence because of who they are and who they love,” said Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Engel (NY-16). “We simply cannot look the other way when the human rights of LGBTI individuals are abused or ignored. This measure would ensure that pushing back against this sort of injustice is a foreign policy priority. I applaud Representative Titus for her leadership on this issue, and I’m glad to support her legislation.”

“As we continue to work toward full equality under the law for all Americans, we as a nation must also be champions for vulnerable LGBTI people abroad,” said Congressman Cicilline (RI-1). “Nobody should be forced to live in fear simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s long past time to pass the GLOBE Act to finally send the message that hatred and violence against the LGBTI community will not be tolerated. I’m proud to join with Congresswoman Titus, Chairman Engel, and our allies in the House to reintroduce this critical legislation.”

“Our nation was built on the basis of equality and justice, that we promote a system that enforces the precept that all people are entitled to the same set of basic human rights,” said Congressman Lowenthal (CA-47). “These rights include the right to love who they chose and to be who they are without fear of punishment or death. LGBTI rights are human rights.”

“As the State Department under Secretary Pompeo is creating a hierarchy of human rights with religious freedom as their sole priority, we fear that their true intention is to alienate the rights of LGBTI people,” said Chair of the Council for Global Equality Mark Bromley. “The GLOBE Act is a remedy to that dangerous, ideological shift in our nation’s long-standing human rights policy.”

“While the Trump-Pence White House refuses to speak out against anti-LGBTQ attacks worldwide, it is essential that the U.S. Congress defend the human rights and protections of all people — including LGBTQ people,” said Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “With the introduction of this legislation, Congress sends an important message that U.S. leaders remain committed to advancing human rights around the globe. We thank Rep. Titus for her leadership and advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ people worldwide.”

The legislation has the support of 52 original co-sponsors and the Council for Global Equality, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Immigration Equality Action Fund, CHANGE, PFLAG National, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), Center for American Progress, GLAAD, International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), Amnesty International USA, PAI, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Advocates for Youth, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), OutRight Action International, Church World Service (CWS), Equality California, and Silver State Equality.

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Proposed US Ambassador to UN in Geneva Would Undermine LGBTI Rights – As UN Votes to Renew Mandate of Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, US Senate Considers Extremist Ambassador Who Would Sabotage That Work

United Nations GenevaThe UN Human Rights Council voted today to renew the mandate of its expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The vote gives the UN the political and financial resources needed to continue its groundbreaking work in support of fundamental rights for LGBTI individuals around the world.  Sadly, in Washington, the Senate soon will vote to confirm an extremist to serve as our ambassador to the UN human rights institutions in Geneva.  If confirmed, he would undermine that work.

The Council for Global Equality joined other groups in releasing a letter today calling on the Senate to oppose the confirmation of Andrew Bremberg to serve as US Ambassador in Geneva.  The vote on the LGBT expert in Geneva shows why we need an ambassador there who will support the UN’s human rights work, not a political extremist who would sabotage it at every turn.

The UN vote today was closer than it should have been but stronger than the original vote to establish the position three years ago.  Today’s vote had 27 countries supporting the position, with 12 opposing and 7 abstentions.  Sadly, the United States did not lend its support, having stepped off the world’s leading human rights body a year ago.  It’s time to renew US leadership on human rights.  Andrew Bremberg is not the one to lead.  We urge the Senate to oppose his confirmation and demand a new nominee with proven human rights leadership experience.

 

Trump Administration Torpedoes Human Rights at State Department

Earlier today, Secretary Pompeo formally launched a new commission aimed at narrowing our country’s human rights advocacy to fit with the “natural law” and “natural rights” views of social and religious extremists.

The formal announcement was read awkwardly by Secretary Pompeo at a July 8 press briefing, at which he took no questions.  Pompeo referred without specificity to concern that human rights not be “hijacked” by those who would use the name for their own purposes.  He suggested that the institutions designed to protect human rights had drifted from their mission and claimed that the new commission will offer an “…informed view of the role of human rights in foreign policy….”  Most of the commissioners he named publicly are known for their highly conservative views, often framed with a religious slant.  The Chair of the Commission, Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, has long opposed sexual and reproductive rights, and, as documented by Equity Forward, has written in the most alarmist of terms about the supposed social harms of marriage equality in our country.

We have written earlier of our suspicions that the so-called “Unalienable Rights Commission” is but a thinly guised mechanism to jettison LGBT populations and reproductive rights from the purview of U.S. human rights policies and protections. To date, at least five Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have raised questions about the new committee’s purpose and membership.  They also have questioned the way in which the committee was conceived, noting in particular its circumvention of the very bureau (Democracy, Human Rights and Labor) charged with integrating human rights concerns into U.S foreign policy at the State Department.

But our concern goes far deeper.  In an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal, Secretary Pompeo worries that we have lost our focus, and that today “[r]ights claims are often aimed more at rewarding interest groups and dividing humanity into subgroups.”  With language like that, we see this as part of a broader effort to push back against human rights for LGBTI individuals and other “subgroups” by creating a hierarchy of rights – with religious freedom at the pinnacle and the rights of LGBTI and other individuals in the “alienable” category.  We believe it wrong-headed to create an artificial human rights hierarchy — one that strips away the universality of human rights and puts political and religious rights above all others.

This seems all the more concerning coming just before the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the State Department next week.  We categorically reject these hierarchies and insist on an integrated approach to human rights for all.  Freedom of religion must be integrated within – and reinforcing of – the full range of human rights protections that honor the dignity of all persons in all of our many pursuits.

The Commission on Unalienable Rights Pompeo announced is less a group of thoughtful experts than a narrowly gauged, packed court.  In so blatantly appealing to their political base, Trump, Pence and Pompeo are dimming our country’s beacon of principle and freedom, hobbling U.S. human rights leadership, and thoughtlessly undermining the wider human rights platform on which other strategic U.S. interests rest.

With its embrace of dictators, its walk away from the UN Human Rights Commission, which is still the world’s most important human rights mechanism despite its faults, and its diminution of LGBT and gender rights as a legitimate part of policy, this Administration already has done far less to advance the cause of human rights than to harm it.  The new Commission seems designed to continue that retreat from U.S. leadership in forging a better world.  What a disgraceful — and steadily worsening — legacy.

No Pride at State: 26 Human Rights and LGBTI Advocacy Groups Urge State Department to Clarify Policy Around Embassies and Dismantle ‘Natural Rights’ Commission

The Trump/Pence Administration’s exceptionally weak commitment to human rights and LGBTI rights just got a lot weaker.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has green-lighted a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” to provide, according to the Federal Register, “fresh thinking” on “…human rights discourse where it has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights….”  Those are code words for an effort that seems intended to deny equal rights to LGBTI individuals.  The commission — which we believe may be announced formally at the Secretary’s second ministerial-level meeting on religious freedom, scheduled for mid-July — will provide policy recommendations directly to the Secretary, not to the bureau in charge of human rights policy.

What possibly could go wrong?

On one level, the new commission is not much of a surprise.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is no friend of human rights — nor has he ever tolerated, let alone embraced, the LGBTI community. His refusal to back away, at his confirmation hearing, from previous suggestions that same-sex relationships are a perversion was an early indication of potentially discriminatory attitudes by the Secretary toward the Department’s LGBT employees.  And his refusal this month to issue, as Secretary, statements honoring the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) and Pride only underscores the narrow constituency he serves in his official role.

But in forming the new commission, Pompeo has crossed a bridge too far — deliberately putting his personal and political anti-LGBTI bias ahead of clear national interest:

  • By design, the Commission on Unalienable Rights walks away from the broad and principled embrace of universal human rights that previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, have shared. It seeks, instead, to create a new hierarchy of rights, with the intention of “alienating” LGBTI citizens and perhaps others from that framework.
  • International religious freedom is unquestionably a worthy human rights priority for the United States, but it is not the only—or the supreme—human rights concern for our nation or the world, despite the personal religious commitment of Secretary Pompeo and others in this Administration.
  • It snubs a clear and growing consensus in this country that no individual characteristic — be it racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation/identity — should be an impediment to full equality.
  • And it betrays to the world that America’s human rights policies are based less in fairness, justice, and equal opportunity than in narrow-minded religious exceptionalism — coincidentally a contributor to the instability seen in many foreign countries.

We’re under no illusion that the commission will be fair or balanced, or that it will do anything other than narrow the understanding of human rights that has guided American foreign policy for most of this century.  The “natural law” and “natural rights” terminology used in the Commission’s framing is code language that social extremists have used to bring God and religion into the legal realm, as a higher authority than the state. It’s been used primarily to oppose marriage equality and reproductive health services in recent years. And the two prospective commissioner names that have surfaced to date — Mary Ann Glendon and Robert George — are known as opponents of reproductive rights and equality for LGBTI citizens.

But we’re deeply saddened that anyone at the level of Secretary of State would allow personal bias and base (in both senses of the word) politics to deface America’s aspirational commitment to human rights leadership.  Fairer and more inclusive societies, after all, are at the very foundation of stable and secure countries, and of the health, development and judicial assistance goals our country has embraced. And Pompeo seems willfully ignorant that genuine support for human rights, in all of its manifestations, is a critical component not only of American leadership abroad, but of efforts to create a better and more just world.

We’ve written to Pompeo on these matters (see attached), as much in sadness as in outrage.  The United States has fallen short of its aspirational human rights goals, of course, on many occasions.  But both Republican and Democratic administrations have been right to see our leadership in the human rights struggle as critical to the values our country has embraced and projected in the post-war world.

Simply put, we’ve long been ashamed to see how far this Administration has fallen in ignoring the importance of human rights. Sadly, the new commission only lowers the bar.

Election 2020: Our Challenge to Presidential Candidates

Download our position paper here.

Suggested candidate questions.

The 2020 presidential elections are a crucible for our country, from many perspectives. These include the place of respect and insistence our country accords to the guarantee of human rights for all people — a long-cherished expression of American values that the Trump Administration has debased.

The Council for Global Equality challenges all presidential candidates, on each side of the political divide, to express their support for elevating our country’s human rights policy, and for ensuring that it addresses the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities worldwide. Specifically, we call on all candidates and their campaign staff to ensure that their policy positions:

  • Make specific their support for human rights as a basic tenet of U.S. foreign policy, contrasting that support with the Trump Administration’s embrace of dictators (e.g. Russian President Putin, Egyptian President Sisi, and Philippines President Duterte), withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, and general lack of attention to human rights needs on our border with Mexico and in the world at large.
  • Underscore that the fair and equal treatment of minorities, including LGBTI populations, must be part of any genuine human rights policy, noting that neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence has spoken to global LGBTI rights issues.
  • Stress that the U.S. should use all available diplomatic tools to advance LGBTI-inclusive human rights abroad, including police and rule-of-law training, exchange and speaker programs, targeted development assistance, and consistent bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagement, as a reflection of our country’s values of fairness and equality.
  • Insist that U.S. diplomats not strike references to sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual and reproductive health and rights in UN and other international texts, as this undermines years of human rights advocacy in support of women and LGBTI communities globally.
  • Explain the impact of the global gag rule on women and LGBTI communities abroad, including the diversion of lifesaving funding away from health care providers that traditionally have offered health services, including HIV prevention, care and treatment and psycho-social support, to LGBTI communities in many countries.
  • Show humanitarian understanding of the special plight of LGBTI refugees, who flee abuse at home only to find equal abuse in refugee camps and shelters – a problem the Trump Administration has refused to address.
  • Make clear than LGBTI and gender equality issues are grounded in long-held American principles and precepts and will be restored to a place of respect, drawing a sharp contrast with the current Administration’s lack of respect for both.
  • And affirm that sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex traits are not a bar to service to our country, whether at home or abroad, and that our country should set an example to others in demonstrating its commitment to inclusivity, including proud and open military service by transgender and intersex Americans.

We urge media organizations to explore candidates’ understanding of these issues and, at minimum, to ask each candidate for his or her views on three fundamental points:

  • What would your Administration do to elevate the importance of human rights in American foreign policy?
  •  Will your Administration include the fair and equal treatment of racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities as a cornerstone of U.S. human rights and democracy policies — and if so, how would that be expressed?
  •  What would your Administration do better to inform the American public of why respect, fairness and equality for all people, including LGBTI, should be a priority in both our foreign and domestic policies? What diplomatic or economic arguments would you offer to justify the use of U.S. taxpayer funding in support of LGBTI-affirming human rights and development policies?

The time to reaffirm our country’s leadership in advocating for the dignity, respect and human rights for all people is now. We have called repeatedly on the Trump Administration to do so, and we make that call again here. But in the absence of needed changes in Administration foreign policy, we cannot afford another four years of human rights neglect.


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