Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I am the Number Two - the Deputy Chief of Mission - at the U.S. Embassy. I am also Gay.

Below is the transcript of the speech Bob Gilchrist, Tallinn's DCM, gave for the opening of Baltic Pride.

See why I am happy to be going there? Could you imagine this happening even just a few short years ago?

Remarks by U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission at Opening of Baltic Pride Festival

June 6, 2011

It's an honor to be here this evening. I extend my best from Ambassador Polt, whom I am representing here this evening. Many of you may have seen his supportive remarks in our Embassy's press release, in which he congratulated the LGBT community on the event of Baltic Pride and emphasized that "diversity and equality are fundamental values for us all."

My name is Robert Gilchrist and I am the Number Two - the Deputy Chief of Mission - at the U.S. Embassy.

I am also Gay.

So being here this evening is not just important to me as a U.S. Diplomat in reaffirming my government's respect for the integrity of every human being.

It is also important to me as someone who has been active in the gay movement back in my own country,

And as a fellow Gay person who is out and proud.

I had the honor of being the president for several years of an organization based in Washington called Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA). It is an organization that has grown to roughly 1000 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) and supportive U.S. diplomats and other government officials working in foreign affairs.

The organization's focus has been on extending same-sex partnership benefits to U.S. government foreign affairs personnel. Its focus has also been on urging that the basic rights of LGBT people be reflected in the actions and words of U.S. Embassies around the world and at the State Department and other offices in Washington.

Years ago it was hard for my group, GLIFAA, just to get meetings. And progress came slowly at that time

However, by being out... and proud... and persistent... and through the strength of our arguments

We were able to affect change.

Two years, through our work, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton extended to diplomatic personnel the first central government benefits to same-sex partners in U.S. history.

Over time, U.S. policy more broadly has also evolved. I had the honor last year of chairing LGBT Pride event at the State Department in Washington. Secretary of State Clinton spoke at that event and articulated a clear vision of very active support for LGBT rights in U.S. foreign policy. As such, the U.S. has been a strong advocate for LGBT-related initiatives in the UN and other international organizations. Our embassies in places as diverse as Uganda, Malawi, Russia, Albania, and many other places have been outspoken against anti-LGBT laws and state-supported actions.

In that Pride speech last year, Secretary Clinton said "Human Rights are Gay Rights, and Gay Rights are Human Rights." And under her and President Obama's leadership, U.S. diplomats have transformed those words into deeds.

I encourage you all to come to an event on Wednesday evening at the Teacher's House in the Old Town, where a senior official from the U.S. State Department - Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Thomas Melia - will speak on LGBT policy from a U.S. perspective.

I also encourage you all to keep an eye out for later this month, when we expect Secretary Clinton to again make a ground moving speech on LGBT rights - and I believe it will be broadcast live via the State Department website and then also put on YouTube. It says a lot when one of the most powerful women in the world speaks so positively on LGBT issues.

And I also encourage you all to enjoy and benefit from the events this week.

I'd like to thank Estonian Gay Youth and the other groups that have organized this week of events, which my Embassy is glad to help support.

I express appreciation to the other Embassies represented this evening, including the British and Dutch Ambassadors.

And, on behalf of Ambassador Polt and my government, I particularly recognize the role the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs and other parts of the Estonian government are playing in supporting this week's events. Tallinn is a welcoming environment for Baltic Pride, and the Estonian government's support has been fundamental in that.

Thank you very much. Have a great evening and week. Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights! And Happy Pride.

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