Posts Tagged 'Gender Identity'

Ending the Lavender Scare: Why the Love Act of 2017 Matters

By Michael Guest

On June 22, Senator Cardin introduced legislation to mitigate the consequences of the “Lavender Scare” – the1950’s-era witch hunt that resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of State Department employees owing to their perceived sexual orientation.

Cardin’s bill (the Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration Act, or “LOVE Act”) accepts overdue Senate responsibility for the its role in spurring on that witch hunt – responsibility shared of course by the State Department, and for which former Secretary Kerry apologized earlier this year. It directs that a “reconciliation board” be established to clear the names of those who were wrongly dismissed. And it asks the Department to commemorate the period with a suitable display in State’s soon-to-be-opened Museum of American Diplomacy.

Cardin deserves credit for his leadership in setting the record straight on the injustices of that period directed at gay Americans. Many Americans were victimized in the McCarthy era, of course. But at a time when homosexuals already were closeted and marginalized, few if any groups were more systemically impacted by anti-communist hysteria than was the LGBT community.

At the State Department, the Lavender Scare ruined careers (and arguably lives) of men and women who wanted nothing more than to serve their country. It deprived that country of foreign policy expertise and talent. And it helped ensconce a Foreign Service that, for many decades, remained a bastion of conservative, straight white men – an image of America that was hardly representative of the country as a whole.

The Lavender Scare ended long before I began my quarter-century Foreign Service career in 1981. The Department’s imperfect record of dealing with diversity, including LGBT diversity, did improve. But for many years there appeared to be a “lavender glass ceiling” at the ambassadorial level, and how one looked and acted was seen as impacting promotions. Most glaringly, regulatory discrimination persisted too – not directed against gay and lesbian employees per se, but at inequalities in how regulations accommodated their families. The very organization charged with proclaiming American fairness and equality to other countries, in other words, honored those principles only in the breach.

It wasn’t until 2009 that the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton’s leadership, equalize the Department’s accommodations to gay and straight families – a step I’m proud to have helped spur through my work on the State Department Transition Team after the November 2008 election.

In that respect, Cardin’s bill rightfully tackles a lagging problem that still deeply impacts gay Foreign Service personnel: homophobic countries’ denial of family visas to spouses of our gay and lesbian diplomatic personnel. By bowing to this disrespect toward our country’s judicial institutions, we’ve allowed other countries to dictate our personnel policies.

Resolving this problem needs high-octane attention. If a solution can’t be found, perhaps it’s time for our country to apply reciprocity by denying visas to the spouses of those countries’ diplomats, duly married in their own legal systems.

Secretary Tillerson has shown no attention to this problem to date, so perhaps this bill’s push from the outside is needed. Tillerson was uncommonly slow in overturning LGBT-discriminatory policies during his leadership at Exxon, after all, and his embrace of deep budget cuts at State, paired with failure to fill leadership positions, shows a reckless disrespect for the needs of his workforce more broadly.

It’s time to support equality and fairness for those who work tirelessly to advance American ideals – and for that support to enjoy a non-partisan, all-American embrace. Notably, Cardin’s bill has no Republican co-sponsors – a fact that puzzles us as much as it disappoints. Surely that should change. We hope, too, that the new Administration will embrace the purposes and goals of Cardin’s bill with the same pride that those of us who are LGBT have embraced the call of representing our country’s ideals abroad.

Michael Guest is Senior Advisor to the Council for Global Equality. America’s first openly gay, Senate-confirmed Ambassador (to Romania, 2001-04), he ended his career in 2007 in protest of the Department’s unfair family policies for gay and lesbian personnel.

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Cardin Introduces Bill to Address Former Sexual Orientation Discrimination by State Department

World Refugee Day: #LGBTrefugeeswelcome

World Refugee Day

For World Refugee Day, we stand with the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes to seek safety in distant lands. The current levels of refugee flight and displacement represent the highest levels in modern history. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home in recent years, including 22.5 million refugees, most of whom are under 18. In the time that it takes to read this article, conflict and persecution will drive 20 more people into forced displacement.

We know, too, that there are many LGBT refugees who are caught in this massive displacement. Many are fleeing the same conflict and instability that drives their neighbors from their homes, but LGBT refugees are at even greater risk of violence and persecution at every stage in their journey. They often end up in refugee camps or in neighboring countries that are deeply homophobic and transphobic, where they are likely to be violently persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Tragically, many LGBT refugees who make the excruciating decision to flee for their lives—choosing a dangerously uncertain future over certain death—find themselves even less safe in flight.

Many more refugees are fleeing targeted LGBT violence and persecution in their home countries, especially in the nearly eighty countries that criminalize same-sex relationships and non-conforming gender expression. This LGBT flight deprives emerging economies of dynamic young leaders who should be contributing to the social and economic development of their countries. More tragically, it often deprives the refugees themselves of the security and opportunity they need to build a stable future. And those who chose to stand and fight for their rights may still find the threat of prison and violence overwhelming, and they, too, may need to seek protection abroad one day. In the most violent environments, it may be impossible to survive as someone who is politically “out,” or someone who is proudly identifiable as gender non-conforming. The life expectancy of trans women in parts of Central America is only 35-years.

Today, when the world’s refugees most need our attention and sympathy, we see too many countries, the United States included, shutting borders, building walls and turning boats away from our shores. For those of us who fight for LGBT rights in the United States and abroad, we must recognize the LGBT face of the refugee emergency. This is an LGBT issue. The LGBT community in this country has both the resources and the sensitivities to do more – and those of us who survived years of social rejection, an AIDS pandemic and cycles of political vilification in this country should celebrate that remarkable human drive for authentic self-preservation, which has propelled so many of us to seek safety and a chosen community away from our own small towns or places of birth. Most LGBT refugees continue to live in fear even after fleeing their country of nationality. For them, resettlement to countries like the United States represents their only chance of living in safety. We should welcome LGBT refugees.

World Refugee Day

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USAID Nominee Should Affirm that Investments in LGBT Development Have Real Impact

President Trump has nominated Ambassador Mark Green as the new Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  The Council looks forward to his confirmation hearing, where we trust he will affirm USAID’s commitment to inclusive development that recognizes LGBT citizens as both agents and beneficiaries of effective U.S. development assistance.

The Council has worked closely with USAID to ensure that LGBT individuals are included in the full range of human rights, health, economic empowerment and development assistance policies that the United States carries out abroad.  We are particularly pleased that the Agency has adopted new regulations prohibiting USAID and its partners from discriminating against LGBT or other minority communities when providing taxpayer-funded goods and services from the American people.

During his confirmation hearing, we hope Ambassador Greene pledges to uphold the principle that USAID must not discriminate against LGBT communities, and that he affirms the Agency’s ongoing commitment to integrating the needs of LGBT populations into all sectors of development support.

Please watch this video to hear how our investments in LGBT development can have real impact on human lives.

OAS LGBTI Core Group Statement: International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Joint Statement

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Washington, DC
May 17, 2017

Today, on May 17, the members of the OAS LGBTI Core Group (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, United States and Uruguay) are proud to join other governments and civil society organizations from around the world to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). This year, the IDAHOT is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of families and highlight the challenge faced by LGBTI children and parents.

There has been much progress in the Americas since this day was first celebrated in 2004. We are proud to see countries of the hemisphere have taken concrete steps toward the elimination of discrimination against LGBTI persons in the past year. Education, awareness-raising and dialogue have helped tremendously in addressing stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI persons and we encourage all countries of the hemisphere to continue these efforts.

However, as the Inter-American Human Rights Commission highlighted recently, LGBTI persons are still too often victims of discrimination and violent hate crimes based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are often subjected to extreme hate-motivated violence, arbitrary arrest and related killings. Moreover, in some countries of the Americas, consensual same-sex conduct between adults is still criminalized.

We understand and respect that countries are at different stages of acceptance and engagement on this issue. However, we should never forget that the human rights of all persons are universal and indivisible, and these include the human rights of LGBTI persons.

We believe that May 17 is a day we can all come together and continue our dialogue and collaboration with all OAS member states and civil society organizations to help bring an end to discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons.

Statement from U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Reports of Detentions and Killings in Chechnya

Statement from Ambassador Nikki HaleyNikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association. If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored – Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses.

We are against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation. When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict.

Tomorrow, the United States will lead a first-ever meeting on human rights in international conflicts in the UN Security Council to underscore our commitment to addressing human rights abuses wherever they threaten international peace and security.

Governments Step Up for Reproductive Rights

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© 2016 Smita Sharma for Human Rights Watch

Repost from Human Rights Watch

‘She Decides’ Summit to Counter Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’

(Brussels) – Governments should pledge political and financial support for sexual and reproductive health to counter the United States’ “Global Gag Rule,” Human Rights Watch said today. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden are hosting a summit in Brussels on March 2, 2017, to strengthen support for the “She Decides” funding initiative, which will support organizations affected by US restrictions and resulting cuts.

On his first full day in office, US President Donald Trump issued an expanded “Global Gag Rule,” or “Mexico City Policy,” which strips foreign nongovernmental organizations of all US health funding if they use funds from any source to offer information about abortions, provide abortions, or advocate liberalizing abortion laws. US law already prohibits using US funds for abortion in foreign family planning assistance.

“Governments, nongovernmental groups, and the private sector should stand with women and girls to protect their right to health,” said Nisha Varia, women’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration’s damaging policy restricts women’s choices, pushes censorship of information about critical health options, and will reduce a wide range of health services in many countries that desperately need them.” Click to continue Reading.

Cardin Statement on LGBT Rights, Issues at Start of Trump Administration

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement Tuesday:

“At the confirmation hearings of Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, it caught my attention when neither of them would say the phrase ‘LGBT’. I’ve now heard from constituents and activists that the State Department and White House websites have been scrubbed of LGBT content at the outset of the Trump Administration, including the recent apology former Secretary Kerry issued in response to my letter regarding the Department’s disturbing role in the McCarthy Era’s Lavender Scare – when approximately 1,000 dedicated civilians lost their jobs due to their perceived sexuality. This is alarming to me. I encourage the Administration to makes its public information portals reflective of all Americans and our values, and I will be monitoring this closely. We cannot and will not turn back the clock on the hard-fought civil rights of the LGBT community. Instead we must strengthen and expand them. I am continuing to ready legislation to compel the State Department to review its actions during the Lavender Scare and make amends.”


Related Content: U.S. State Department Should Apologize for “Lavender Scare


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