Kerry: 'I'm Working Hard to ... Have Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Ambassadors'
7:31 AM, Jun 23, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
With much of the Obama administration's foreign policy in tatters, John Kerry is clear on at least one goal he hopes to achieve by the end of his time as secretary of state: having lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ambassadors representing the United States. In remarks to a GLIFAA (formerly Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) Pride event in the Ben Franklin Room at the State Department, the secretary ran through a litany of accomplishments by the Obama administration that benefit the "LGBT/gay community." During his speech, Kerry said that, if confirmed, Ted Osius (nominated by President Obama for the post in Vietnam) would be the sixth openly gay U.S. ambassador currently in service:
As he began his talk, Kerry recognized GLIFAA event moderator, Robyn McCutcheon, as the "first transgender Foreign Service officer to come out on the job":
The guest of honor at the event was Masha Gessen, whose Pink Triangle Campaign caused a stir in Russia after that country passed what Kerry termed "repressive anti-LGBT laws." Kerry went on later to note that:
After pointing out a number of LGBT diplomats currently in service in the state department, Kerry said the "wonderful thing" is that no one looks at these individuals doing their jobs as "LGBT diplomats," but just "diplomats":
Kerry went on to note the progress made in the fight against AIDS, the repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (which Kerry said would "never pass" Congress today,) and also changes in healthcare laws benefiting LGBT individuals. He particularly noted efforts to make sure the transgendered were fully covered, something he said was a right and not a privilege:
In spite of the progress noted by Kerry, some members of GLIFAA expressed concern about the direction of their cause, saying that in some ways, they are "feeling even more squeezed" as more countries prohibit issuing visas to same-sex partners. One member said he had to cross off sixty-eight percent of the jobs on his bid list because of the visa issue and wanted to know what the State Department might do to address this obstacle. Kerry assured his listeners that "we are instructing embassies to inform governments locally that this is our policy and that they need to honor our policy. It’s that simple."
Another member zeroed in on problems faced by the transgendered around the world, saying that they "are denied documents that reflect the gender in which they live their daily lives" and that "too often they feel forced into sex work" because of their limited options. Kerry responded:
Kerry said that while the State Department hoped to handle "real trouble spots" on the transgendered issue with "reasonable conversation and an understanding," it may be necessary to "isolate those people for those policies" as the U.S. considers "what the options are with respect to actions that we’ll take."
Back in December 2011 in Geneva, Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the Human Rights Council where she said, "[G]ay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." Kerry said that he was "proud to follow in the footsteps of an extraordinary advocate for the cause" and updated Clinton's words:
The State Department is not by any means the only agency celebrating LGBT Pride Month as proclaimed by President Obama. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence posted a celebration message on its website and tweeted a number of items on Twitter, including a photo of Kristin Beck, a transgendered former Navy Seal who took part in intelligence community celebrations of LGBT Pride Month.
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