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

Rex Tillerson’s Nomination

Rex TillersonWhen Rex Tillerson goes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, he should be given the professional respect to which anyone of his achievement is entitled. But before he is confirmed, he owes the American people some clear answers.

With the title of America’s top diplomat comes responsibility for advancing a broad array of national interests. These include energy security, where Tillerson’s history of back-room deals for the benefit of Exxon shareholders may at least hold the appearance of some use.

But that history and style of operation raise questions, too, of Tillerson’s attachment to broader national interests and, indeed, to the American people. We want to see evidence of his past commitment to fighting the corruption that erodes the future of so many countries and their populations. We want to know what effort he made to ensuring that Exxon’s extraction of natural resources has benefited not only oligarchs and shareholder profits, but to the needs of countries where Exxon has engaged. And we want to understand how he will ensure that his 40-year history in the oil industry will not conflict with the interests of the American people through the full disclosure and explanation of his current and future financial relationship to this industry.

These questions go to the heart of Tillerson’s ethical moorings – important in turn to the respect he must command if he is to advance effectively American interests as Secretary of State. They also target the breadth of interests he must steer, if confirmed.

As a Washington-based advocacy organization that fights for fundamental rights and economic opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals around the world, we are particularly interested in learning how he will promote America’s longstanding interests in supporting democratic societies and vibrant economies that respect and empower minority citizens. Countries that respect the rights of minorities understand their commitment to democracy and make strong diplomatic and economic partners; countries that persecute their minorities do not make stable allies. Unfortunately, LGBTI individuals and religious minorities are among the most violently persecuted minorities in most countries. And some of the worst examples of such persecution, and indeed overtly hostile leadership, occur in countries that happen to be led by some of the world’s worst oligarchs and dictators, including Russia.

U.S. foreign policy has clear reason to promote sound economic development and fully inclusive prosperity, both of which reinforce long-term stability in the foreign partnerships we seek to build. Our country traditionally stands against human rights abuse for this and broader ethical reasons. We advocate for vibrant civil societies that enjoy fundamental freedoms, rights and protections rooted in the rule of law – rights and protections that shouldn’t be limited by national borders, of course, but that also strengthen business and cultural and social ties. We know that sound and inclusive global health policies maximize our country’s generous investments in global health and positively impact, too, the health interests of the American people. And all of these interests are tied intrinsically to success in both eroding the appeal of terrorism and reducing the risk of war.

If confirmed, Tillerson will be charged with building bilateral and multilateral commitment to these and other goals – often against the will and narrow interests of the many government leaders and other officials he has cultivated as CEO. That task is far more challenging, and requires far greater finesse, than does negotiating the price and terms for a commodity that a country’s oligarchs seek to sell.

As a measure of his commitment to human rights and democracy, we encourage discussion of whether Tillerson is prepared to push for full citizenship rights for disfavored LGBTI minority communities in many of the countries around the world where he led Exxon to make significant investments. We deserve to understand how he will prioritize these and other human rights concerns, and there is no better way to judge the balance he will take than to weigh his support for some of the most commonly persecuted minority communities around the world.

We urge that Tillerson speak clearly to these points, and to the leadership he would provide to advancing these paramount interests. We would far rather see policy guided by seasoned career diplomats for a time, than to leave these questions unanswered. A speedy confirmation might be in the narrow partisan interests of the President-elect – but not in the interests of our country.

U.S. State Department Should Apologize for “Lavender Scare”

U.S. Department of StateThe Obama Administration clearly deserves great credit for turning the page on our country’s inattention to LGBT human rights abuse abroad. And we’re immensely proud of the State Department’s increasingly robust advocacy for LGBT-fair policies and practices in other countries.

But Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has pointed to a hole in the State Department’s advocacy for LGBT fairness: there’s been no Department apology to the victims and families of the so-called “Lavender Scare” of the 50’s and 60’s, in which those suspected of being gay lost their Foreign and Civil Service jobs, or were denied prospective State Department employment.

That Cold War period seems, of course, strikingly outdated. Current federal employment policies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT employees now serve proudly, and openly, in support of government missions and, indeed, the American people.

But Senator Ben Cardin’s call for an apology remains principled and right. An apology would only strengthen the integrity of State Department’s human rights advocacy abroad for those who are gay, lesbian and transgender. It equally would remind the incoming Trump Administration that there can be no rollback of fairness at home – and, indeed, that contract employees and their employers should be covered by LGBT non-discrimination provisions, too.

There’s time in this Administration for Secretary Kerry to act. We hope and urge that he will support Senator Cardin’s call.

Statement by Secretary Kerry: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Repost from U.S. Department of State

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States solemnly honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who lost their lives to senseless acts of violence.

Transgender persons around the world are targeted by rising levels of violence fueled by hatred and bigotry.  This is a global challenge and we all must do more to protect transgender persons on the basis of equality and dignity.

In the United States, our Constitution enshrines freedoms of peaceful assembly, speech and association, and it affirms that everyone has equal protection under the law.  Around the world human rights and fundamental freedoms are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that every person is born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Every person includes transgender women, transgender men, and other individuals who face marginalization on account of their gender expression or gender identity.

Today we stand in solidarity with the incredible resilience and leadership of the transgender community in responding to stigma and marginalization.  Transgender persons deepen our diversity, broaden our communities, and strengthen the values we cherish.  When all persons reach their full human potential, free from fear, intimidation, and violence, nations become more just, secure and prosperous.

The United States remains committed to advance the human rights of all persons, including transgender persons.  On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we reaffirm equality for all as part of our core constitutional principles and as a human rights priority of U.S. diplomacy.

U.S. State Department’s Recognition of Intersex Awareness Day

statedeptlogo-webPress Statement from John Kirby, Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

On the occasion of Intersex Awareness Day, the United States stands in solidarity with intersex persons around the world.

We recognize that intersex persons face violence, discrimination, stigma, harassment, and persecution on account of their sex characteristics, which do not fit binary notions of typical male or female bodies.

Intersex persons routinely face forced medical surgeries that are conducted at a young age without free or informed consent. These interventions jeopardize their physical integrity and ability to live free.

The United States is a proud and founding member of the Equal Rights Coalition, a recently established Coalition of 31 governments that aims to “strengthen cooperation to advance the human rights of, and support inclusive development for all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.” We hope this Coalition will work to share best practices and to jointly address challenges in support of the human rights of intersex persons.

Through the Global Equality Fund, the United States, together with the Fund’s 25 government, foundation, and business partners, are supporting new efforts of the intersex community to mobilize and organize, with the goals of increasing awareness of and support for intersex persons and their human rights. The Fund was launched in 2011 to support civil society in their efforts to advance human rights and uphold dignity for all.

On Intersex Awareness Day, we are reminded that all people everywhere are created equal and should be afforded equal dignity and respect, regardless of sex characteristics. We look forward to continued cooperation with civil society, like-minded governments, and others to advance the human rights of intersex persons.

Deteriorating Human Rights in The Gambia

Yahya JammehMay 3, 2016 – The Council for Global Equality joined 15 leading human rights organizations in writing to the State Department and the White House this week to express ongoing concern over the deteriorating human rights landscape in The Gambia following a series of arbitrary arrests involving police brutality and possible torture. This adds to concerns that we have raised with the Obama Administration over the past several years, including pointed questions about the targeted persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in The Gambia.

The government’s arrests and harsh suppression of protests last month, in advance of elections anticipated at the end of the year, have been condemned by local, regional and international human rights leaders. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported that an opposition leader died in April under suspicious circumstances shortly after his arrest. The government’s brutal treatment of the opposition and the suppression of protests have been condemned by the United Nation’s Secretary-General, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the ECOWAS Commission and the State Department. There have been similar statements of concern from leading civil society in the region, including IHRDA, WACSOF and the NGO Forum at the African Commission. This latest crackdown is only the most recent chapter in a long line of abuses perpetrated against independent voices by President Jammeh’s regime since he seized power in 1994.

President Jammeh has also continued his inflammatory rhetoric against LGBT Gambians. In March 2016, when addressing the opening of the National Assembly, he said that homosexuality is “ungodly,” and “I will never tolerate it here in The Gambia. Those who will be caught practicing it will face the full force of the law.” These remarks are not empty rhetoric – the Gambian criminal code was amended in October 2014 to include much harsher sentences for various acts defined as “aggravated homosexuality.” LGBT Gambians have since been subjected to arrest and detention, torture, and other ill-treatment by state security forces.

In light of these reports, the Council for Global Equality has renewed its call to take further actions against President Jammeh and his government. In particular, as previously requested, we have urged the Obama Administration to consider visa bans against Gambian officials guilty of grave human rights abuses, and to consider using the sanctions powers available under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which have been used in the past to respond to human rights abuses in countries such as Belarus, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. We have also asked the Obama Administration to cut any remaining security assistance to the government in the wake of these abuses. We urge the Obama Administration to take these steps now, before the pre-election violence spirals out of control in the shadow of elections later this year.

State Department Reports on Bias-Motivated Violence

Secretary Kerry Releases the 2015 Human Rights Report

Secretary Kerry Releases the 2015 Human Rights Report

April 21, 2016 – Last week, the State Department released its accounting of human rights abuses committed in 2015. As usual, this year’s human rights report offers disturbing pictures of violence being committed against LGBT people worldwide, from Afghanistan to Honduras to Kenya.

Recognizing the magnitude of such violence, the White House last June convened a “Conversation on Combatting Bias-Motivated Violence Against LGBT Persons Around the World.” At that meeting, Obama Administration officials highlighted initiatives by the U.S. government and private sector actors to address bias-motivated violence targeting the LGBT community, recognizing in particular the need for law enforcement, judges, legislatures, governments, and civil society to work together to respond comprehensively and decisively to such violence. Unfortunately, this year’s human rights report reminds us that there is much more work to do. It also provides a glimmer of hope, recognizing some of the unique steps that a handful of governments are taking to acknowledge, document and respond to extremely high levels of bias-motivated violence targeting LGBT individuals. Continue reading ‘State Department Reports on Bias-Motivated Violence’

Nisha Ayub Receives the 2016 Woman of Courage Award

Secretary Kerry's Remarks at the 2016 International Women of Courage Award

The Council for Global Equality congratulates Nisha Ayub, Director of SEED Malaysia, for receiving the 2016 Woman of Courage award from Secretary of State John Kerry at a ceremony in Washington DC today. She is the first transgender woman to ever receive this award. Ms. Ayub has been challenging Malaysia’s harsh treatment of transgender citizens, including the anti-cross dressing laws.

This award is not just about me–it’s about recognition and acceptance of trans people in regards to their gender identity. Today I am being fully recognized as a woman.

She previously met President Obama on his visit to Malaysia last year.

(Remarks by Secretary Kerry about Nisha Ayub at 21:21)

Read Secretary Kerry’s remarks

Learn more about the award and this year’s recipients.

Learn more about Nisha Ayub.

Related Content: Nisha dedicates Women of Courage Award to all transwomen (The Star Online)


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