“LGBT Rights Are Human Rights – Once and for All”
A central tenant of our work is that U.S. foreign policy leaders should respond to human rights concerns directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity with the same level of commitment that our government has demonstrated in responding to human rights abuses directed at other marginalized or targeted communities around the world. Here, then, are some of our key successes in making LGBT human rights concerns a foreign policy issue in Washington and beyond.
- Based in part on a transition memo prepared by the Council, the Obama Administration reversed an earlier Bush policy and in March 2009 joined more than 60 other nations in supporting the “UN General Assembly Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” that calls on all countries to decriminalize consensual relations and protect the fundamental rights of LGBT individuals. The U.S. is now a member of the “core group” of UN member states that continues to push this statement at the United Nations.
- The Council requested and secured similar diplomatic leadership from U.S. diplomats at the Organization of American States (OAS), where the U.S. has supported a consensus resolution for the past three years on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity; and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), where the U.S. last year for the first time began addressing LGBT violence and discrimination under the organization’s human rights mandate, and where the Council’s Senior Adviser, former Ambassador Michael Guest, served as the head of the U.S. delegation to an important human rights review conference in Warsaw in 2010.
- The Council helped channel the outrage of LGBT Americans at the proposed “anti-homosexuality” bill in Uganda into diplomatic action. The Obama Administration responded and provided unprecedented diplomatic attention to what President Obama described as an “odious” bill, including direct engagement by the President, the Secretary of State and the U.S. Embassy. Similar attention has also been applied to unfolding human rights “crisis” situations impacting LGBT communities in a number of other countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
- To honor LGBT Pride month in June 2010, and at the urging of the Council, Secretary Clinton delivered a speech where she highlighted the State Department’s ongoing commitment to LGBT rights and emphatically declared that “just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.” After the speech, the Department sent a diplomatic cable to all U.S. embassies to clarify LGBT human rights policy, and the Department also recently submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council in which it recognizes that “in each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build a more fair society. In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.”
- The Council was the only NGO that was invited to address a conference of human rights reporting officers in 2009 to help emphasize the importance of LGBT reporting, and in 2010, the Human Rights Bureau of the State Department included significantly more information on LGBT rights in its annual human rights report, with a new section for each country chapter that is now specifically dedicated to reporting on “sexual orientation and gender identity.” This was also the first year that embassies were specifically required to report on gender identity concerns.
- After repeated requests, the State Department issued funding solicitations to support LGBT human rights defenders (at a commitment of $269,000) and LGBT civil society organizations in Africa (at a commitment of $1million). Council staff helped member organizations bid on the solicitations and offered strategic advice during the proposal process.
- The Council has worked closely with a coalition of refugee organizations and with the Refugee Bureau in the State Department to highlight the unique vulnerabilities of LGBT refugees and to create an expedited refugee resettlement process for LGBT human rights defenders in extreme danger who need immediate access to protection and resettlement.