Posts Tagged 'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell'

US troops take part in LGBT Pride Month reception at US Embassy in Tokyo


Repost from Stars and Stripes

TOKYO — Master Sgt. Marc Maschhoff revels in the turns his life has taken in the last year.

Last summer, Maschhoff had to keep his sexuality a secret or risk being kicked out of the Air Force.

On Monday, he was happily introducing his boyfriend to diplomats and politicians from around the world as the U.S. ambassador to Japan held a reception in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month.

“I can’t believe I’ve been in the Air Force 23 years living in secret, hiding who I am,” Maschhoff said before heading to the reception, which was closed to the media, “and now I’m invited to a reception by the emissary of the president of the United States.” Continue Reading.

Honduras is test of new U.S. policy on gay rights

Honduras LGBT RIghts

Photo: Johny Magallanes / MCT

Repost from the Miami Herald

by Tim Johnson

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — From U.N. chambers to the halls of the State Department, global pressure on countries to protect the rights of gay and transgender people is rising.

For Josue Hernandez, the new emphasis can’t come fast enough.

The 33-year-old gay activist bears the scar of the bullet that grazed his skull in an attack a few years ago. He’s moved the office of his advocacy group four times. Still, he feels hunted in what is arguably the most homophobic nation in the Americas.

“We are in a deplorable state,” Hernandez said of gays in Honduras. “When we walk the streets, people shout insults at us and throw rocks. Parents move their children away.”

Three months ago, a U.N. report declared that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — or LGBT — violates core international human rights law. It listed nations where violations are most severe.

Joining a push that originated in Europe, the Obama administration said in December that respect for LGBT rights is now a factor in its foreign policy decisions.

United States Issues UN Report on Its Own Human Rights Conditions

United States Issues UN Report on Its Own Human Rights ConditionsOn December 30, the United States submitted its fourth periodic report to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is one of the most important human rights treaties that the United States has ratified. In a major departure from a prior Bush Administration report, sexual orientation and gender identity issues featured prominently in this current submission, with an honest and reflective perspective on the state of LGBT rights in the United States. The report chronicles recent progress made to advance LGBT equality at the federal and state levels, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the passage of hate crime legislation, support for a variety of family recognition mechanisms, and the legal recognition of gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

When the United States presented its last report to the Committee on Human Rights in 2006, the U.S. delegation tried to deny the application of longstanding sexual orientation and gender identity protections under the ICCPR, even though the Committee has recognized rights to privacy and non-discrimination for LGBT individuals since at least 1992.  During that 2006 review, a member of the UN Committee noted publicly that the U.S. delegation, which included the head of the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department, demonstrated a lack of awareness of the “longstanding and consistent” jurisprudence of the Committee on these issues.  The UN expert expressed his concern that by denying the existence of these rights under the ICCPR, the U.S. government might suggest that persons of diverse sexual orientations and identities are not fully entitled to the rights to life and privacy under the treaty.  In contrast, by reporting so extensively on LGBT-related concerns in this current UN report, the Obama Administration has now made an unequivocal legal statement recognizing that international law protects the human rights of all individuals, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Indeed, this is the legal justification for Secretary Clinton’s emphatic assertion that “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.” Continue reading ‘United States Issues UN Report on Its Own Human Rights Conditions’

Reflections on Frank Kameny’s Impact

Frank Kameny

Frank Kameny, center, holding "Gay is Good" sign

By Amb. (ret.) Michael Guest, Senior Advisor, The Council for Global Equality

Word of Frank Kameny’s death yesterday at age 86 seeped in slowly – less thunderbolt than a brewing sadness that a man I would have liked to know better is now gone.

Frank and I met only once, so I hardly can call him friend, and I can add little to the many obituaries that rightly mourn his passing.  But I am so deeply grateful to him for his principled and clear-eyed commitment to fairness in America.  That quality made him a constant presence in my life, and in the lives of so many other gay federal employees.  He truly will be missed.

Not many years before I began my Foreign Service career, gays and lesbians were excluded from the State Department, which irrationally judged us to be security risks.  Frank challenged that notion, and fought indeed to ensure that government service, in all agencies, was open to all.  That I and countless others were empowered to pursue the careers of which we had dreamed can be laid squarely at Frank’s feet.

Later, when I wrestled with Department policies that discriminated against the families of gay and lesbian Foreign Service personnel, it was Frank’s passion and principle that gave me the courage to continue that fight.  Frank knew that equality is an absolute, not an abstract concept.  He was and remains an inspiration.

Frank inevitably will be remembered as a “gay activist,” and that of course he was.  But look closer at how enormously our COUNTRY has benefited from Frank’s activism!  In calling for gays to be treated fairly, Frank aligned himself with America’s founding principles.  And by insisting that gay and lesbian citizens be allowed to serve their country, he has opened up a choice of talent that otherwise would be unavailable to our country’s challenges and interests.

Frank served in our country’s military, and so it’s fitting that he lived to see the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  I wish, too, that he had lived to see the wider victories in employment law that we know lie ahead.  And I hope that our community leaders will draw from his life’s example the realization that change will only come if we demand it, not patiently request it.

The spirit of America’s promise was always at the core of Frank’s life.  Now he is at rest.  It’s up to us to fulfill the balance of his mission.

The Global Gay Rights Battlefields

In an article by Max Strasser in the December 20, 2010 issue of Foreign Policy Magazine the author highlights the LGBT rights battles taking shape in countries has diverse as Nigeria, Malaysia and Lithuania.

Read the full article here.

Presidential Proclamation–Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month

The White House as issued a proclamation commemorating June as LGBT Pride Month.

Read the full proclamation here

The International and the Domestic – Where the Worlds Come Together

UPR-Panel (l-r Cecilia Chung, Shirley Tan, Sylvia Guererro, Shannon Minter)

Cecilia Chung, Shirley Tan, Sylvia Guererro, and Shannon Minter

So much of social justice work occurs in single-issue silos. Even within our own LGBT “single issue,” domestic issues in the United States and the LGBT struggles in the rest of the world rarely intersect.

Last week, the Council for Global Equality and its 19 organizational members submitted a report to the United Nations on the human rights record of the United States on a variety of LGBT issues. This submission is a rare example of international and domestic advocacy coming together to reinvigorate each other. The report was submitted for “Universal Periodic Review,” a relatively new mechanism of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, whereby every nation has its own human rights record reviewed by other states in a peer review process. The United States has signed a number of different international human rights treaties, and the UN will now assess how the United States is complying with its international human rights obligations at home based on those agreed standards. As part of the information gathering process, the Human Rights Council reviews submissions from the nonprofit field before issuing its recommendations. This process is one of the key “naming and shaming” tools that the UN has to address human rights issues around the world, and it is a mechanism that LGBT groups from around the world increasingly use to draw international attention to and seek government accountability in their struggles for equality.

As we like to say in social justice work, it’s just another “tool in the toolbox” for addressing injustice. It works better in some countries than in others. It works better for some issues than for others. But as world opinion gradually comes to accept human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as actual wrongs, and as international law is increasingly interpreted as being inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, this tool is ever more useful for LGBT movements around the world – including for the United States.

The Council for Global Equality primarily focuses on U.S. foreign policy matters as they relate to sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Yet we strongly believe that attention to these fundamental issues at home can only strengthen the Obama administration’s voice in standing against homophobia and transphobia abroad. In fact our very legitimacy as a human rights leader in the world is dependent upon our cleaning up our own messes at home. That is why our submission to the UN, which focuses on hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and lack of partner and family recognition in the United States, suggests a very clear remedy for each of these three main problem areas – with most of those remedies tied to specific legislation currently pending in the U.S. Congress.

As a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, the U.S. Department of State also welcomes the perspectives of various communities and nonprofit organizations before it reports on itself to the UN. Together with other federal agencies, State Department officials have traveled the country convening “listening sessions” as part of this self-reporting process. Last month, they listened to groups in San Francisco, including a panel of amazing individuals who personally testified to the impacts of these human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States. Those powerful and heartbreaking personal stories can be heard here (UPR LGBT Panel), and remind us that these are not esoteric issues of international treaty law – these are real issues that impact real people every day in our country.

That is why it is time for the United States to adopt the complete battery of legislation we need to grant full human rights to LGBT Americans.  We must do so to be compliant with our nation’s obligations under the international treaties and covenants to which we are party, and to live up to the values of equality, fairness, and inalienable rights that this democracy was founded upon. We are hopeful that the UN will similarly recommend that the United States rectify these issues based on an updated interpretation of our nation’s international obligations. The Council is eager to promote this unique moment, when the international and the domestic agendas for the LGBT rights movement come together in support of Global Equality.

The Council for Global Equality and HRC submit report to United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

As posted on HRC Action. April 23, 2010

Earlier this week, HRC, as a member of the Council for Global Equality, submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council [PDF] as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The purpose of the submission was to highlight ways in which the United States can improve human rights domestically. Our submission focused on deterring LGBT hate crimes, prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people — including the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law — and increasing the ability of LGBT individuals to form secure and stable families. Read more

Gen. Sheehan to Former Dutch Defense chief of staff Gen. Henk Van den Breemen

Read a letter from Gen. Sheehan to Former Dutch Defense chief of staff Gen. Henk Van den Breemen, who was supposedly Sheehan’s source of information, apologizing for his recent derogatory comments. Click here

An unfair attack on gay troops –

The massacre at Srebrenica was a tragedy, but the Dutch army’s policy allowing gays in the military had nothing to do with it.

Boris Dittrich
Published in:
March 29, 2010

Gen. John Sheehan, the former NATO commander, told a Senate committee this month that part of the blame for one of the last half-century’s most famous atrocities — the massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war — rested on gays in the Dutch military.

Homosexuals in the Dutch military had depleted the forces’ morale, he argued to the senators, and made them “ill-equipped to go to war.” And that was in part why they failed to prevent Bosnian Serbs from massacring more than 8,000 civilians in the former haven of Srebrenica in July 1995.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) seemed incredulous at the testimony. “Did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?” he asked.

“Yes,” Sheehan said. “They included that as part of the problem.” He even claimed that the former Dutch commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force had told him this was true.

As a former member of the Dutch parliament and a spokesman for the parliamentary investigation into the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, I know the history that the retired U.S. Marine Corps general tried to rewrite, and I was astonished by his homophobic concoctions.

During two weeks of public hearings on the massacre, Dutch parliamentarians heard many expert witnesses. Not one hinted at sexual orientation as a relevant factor. Srebrenica was no moment of pride for the Dutch military. But soldiers’ sexuality had nothing to do with the failure to protect.

The Dutch parliamentary investigation placed blame squarely on Ratko Mladic for the mass killings of Muslim men and boys. Mladic was the Bosnian Serb military commander during the war in Bosnia. A fugitive, he has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the massacre after Srebrenica fell. It was arguably the worst atrocity on European soil since the Holocaust.

But Sheehan uttered no word about Mladic and expressed no outrage that he is still at large while thousands of men and boys have been consigned to mass graves. Instead, he put the blame on the sexuality of Dutch troops.

After the general’s statement, the Dutch prime minister and the ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs issued statements of disbelief and shock. Former Dutch Defense chief of staff Gen. Henk Van den Breemen, who was supposedly Sheehan’s source, dismissed his testimony as utter nonsense.

Sheehan’s remarks insult not only the Dutch military but lesbians and gays around the world — men and women perfectly capable of defending themselves, their comrades and their countries.

Since 1974, the Dutch military has recruited soldiers based on their physical and mental capability, irrespective of race, sexual orientation or religious belief. The Dutch army was the first in the world to open its military formally to gays and lesbians. Now it holds this policy in common with many countries, including Britain, Canada, Israel, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Australia.

As a member of the Dutch parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, I visited Dutch troops in Afghanistan in 2004. In Kabul, the Dutch worked closely with American forces. Not one American commander had a word of criticism for their Dutch comrades because some were gay or lesbian. They were jointly fulfilling a U.N. mandate to combat the Taliban. On the ground, as everyone knows, only performance counts.

Since 2006, the Dutch have been the lead nation in the NATO strategy for the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, and more than 20 Dutch soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Disagreement over a plan to pull out of Afghanistan at the end of this year led to the collapse of the Dutch government.

The Dutch army is no less competent because it respects nondiscrimination and equality, principles dear to the American public.

Sheehan seems to think Congress will be distracted from the need to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” by hearing outrageous lies about Dutch soldiers and one of the worst war crimes in recent history. Let’s hope he is wrong.

His surreal testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee showed that the die-hard defenders of the discredited policy have run out of ammunition. It is past time for a policy founded on fantasy and fear to go.

Leonard Matlovich, whose Air Force service in Vietnam earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, was later discharged for his homosexuality. After his death in 1988, he was buried in Washington’s Congressional Cemetery, where his gravestone reads: “When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Sheehan’s false testimony shows the hypocrisy of such a policy. The U.S. military should focus on its real challenges. Let “don’t ask, don’t tell” die.

Boris Dittrich is advocacy director in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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