Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Secretary Clinton Adds Gender Identity to State's Non-Discrimination Clause

Today's even with Secretary Clinton was just incredible. Hopefully, my teachers at FSI will forgive my brief absence, but boy was it worth it.

The big news, which we suspected would happen, was that she announced that she had added gender identity to the protected classes of the Department's non-discrimination clause. This is a great step!

But just in general, her speech was incredible. To have the Secretary of State address an audience of LGBT Foreign Service folks and allies was amazing. And the turnout was fabulous! More than 150 non-USG folks RSVP'd, and that doesn't include the USG folks who were there. The Loy Henderson Auditorium was standing room only...I would guess that there were at least 300 or more people there.

Particularly moving, at least to me, was this: "When you are in the midst of a great movement of change, it seems glacial. But it has been incredible what has been accomplished in so short a time....This is a human rights issue. Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights!"

Okay, can I just say I love her?

There was good press coverage of the event, both mainstream and LGBT media. I'll post the coverage as I find it, but for now, here is the CNN story on the event:

Clinton pledges to defend gay rights at home and abroad
By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

Washington (CNN) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to end violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians at home and abroad Tuesday, as the Obama administration moves to extend further benefits to gays working in the federal government.

"We are moving together in the right direction," said Clinton. "We reaffirm our commitment to protect the rights of all human beings."

Clinton drew several standing ovations from the standing-room-only crowd of several hundred during her address at an event co-hosted by the State Department's Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies. June has been recognized as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

Speaking about the linkages between gay rights and U.S. foreign policy, Clinton said she is asking embassies in Africa and elsewhere to report on rights of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The State Department is also placing more attention on ensuring gays around the world have access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and providing protection for LBGT refugees.

The department is also providing grants to human rights activists who are persecuted either because they are gay or defend gay rights, she said.

"These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue," Clinton said. She drew more rousing applause when she declared "human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights," a variation on the phrase she famously delivered in Beijing 10 years ago declaring "women's rights are human rights."

Clinton said she is equally concerned about creating an environment at the State Department in which gay employees feel valued and "can give 100 percent." That is why, she said, she supported offering equal benefits to same-sex partners of State Department employees, a move that encouraged President Barack Obama to authorize such benefits for gays throughout the federal government.

She noted the State Department also has made it easier for transgender people to change their passports and, for the first time, the agency's "equal opportunity statement" will include gender identity and sexual preference.

The Obama administration is expected to announce Wednesday that gay workers will be able to take medical leave to care for the sick or newborn children of their same-sex partners as part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which generally allows those working for companies with 50 or more employees to take 12 unpaid weeks off to care for newborns or children with serious health issues.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also were to attend a gay pride event later Tuesday at the White House.

Here are some links to more coverage:

Washington Blade: Clinton equates LGBT rights to human rights

GLAA Forum: Clinton speaks at State Dept. Pride celebration"

Dallas Voice: Secretary Clinton addresses State Department for Pride, saying gay rights are human rights

Pam's House Blend: Live Tweeting of Secretary of State Clinton's remarks on LGBT human rights and U.S foreign policy

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