Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech to LGBT personnel Wednesday in which she remarked upon developments that have helped diversify the American diplomatic corps and advance human rights priorities within U.S. foreign policy over the past two decades.
Clinton spoke at the 20th anniversary celebration for the affinity group, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), which includes hundreds of members from the State Department, USAID, the Peace Corps, the Foreign Agricultural Service, the Foreign Commercial Service, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and all foreign affairs units of the U.S. government. The afternoon event in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department in Washington, D.C. drew about 200 attendees.
GLIFFA was founded in 1992 to address discrimination encountered by LGBT individuals in the security-clearance process. Clinton spoke of the evolution since then, including the extension of benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of employees during her tenure, and her landmark speech in Geneva last year in which she declared “gay rights are human rights.”
“We’ve come a long way since then, and we have seen milestones along that journey over the last 20 years,” said the former First Lady. “I remember that I think on my husband’s first day in office back in ’93, he announced that gays and lesbians working in the federal government would receive equal treatment under the Civil Service Reform Act. Two years later, Secretary Warren Christopher made clear those rules would be enforced within the halls of the State Department when he issued a statement that explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Clinton, who has indicated her intention to step down in the near future, spoke about the importance of having a diplomatic corps that reflects the diversity of the world.
“It’s also smart because it makes us better advocates for the values that we hold dear,” she said. “Because when anyone is persecuted anywhere, and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted or kept from fully participating in their societies, they suffer, but so do we. We’re not only robbed of their talents and ideas, we are diminished, because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the Government of the United States. So this is a mission that I gladly assume. We have to set the example and we have to live up to our own values.”
The Secretary of State did not mention the legislation under consideration in Uganda that could include the death penalty for homosexual acts, according to Metro Weekly. Lawmakers in the East African country could vote on the bill as soon as this week, but it remains unclear whether the most controversial provision has been removed.
Clinton gave special mention to Tom Gallagher, who became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer in the early 1970s. Other LGBT leaders who attended the event included U.S. ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner, former U.S. ambassador to Romania Michael Guest, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan and Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender woman appointed to any U.S. administration, the Washington Blade reported.
Additional speakers included Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, GLIFAA President Ken Kero-Mentz, USAID deputy administrator Donald Steinberg, and Daniel Baer, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Read Secretary Clinton's remarks in full.
Image via Getty.