State Department Bill Includes Important Protections for LGBT People
May 15, 2009
This from HRC Senior Counsel Brian Moulton:
Yesterday, Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, a measure authorizing funds for the State Department and other foreign affairs agencies for the next two years. Among the many provisions of the bill are important advances for LGBT people at home and abroad, most notably a provision that would end the long-standing practice of excluding the partners of Foreign Service officers from the benefits routinely provided to the spouses and children of officers serving abroad. This provision would also apply to Peace Corps employees who are appointed as members of the Foreign Service. If passed, this measure will finally ensure that those who enter public service and represent our nation abroad are treated equally by their government at home, and that talented Foreign Service officers, like former Ambassador Michael Guest, are not forced to choose between serving their country and protecting their families. Aside from this important protection for State Department employees, the authorization bill also includes language requiring that the Department take a more active role in documenting and responding to violence and discrimination against LGBT people abroad. The bill requires State Department employees be designated to track the treatment of LGBT people around the world, mandates inclusion of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the Annual Human Rights Reports and creates training for Foreign Service officers on identifying violence and discrimination against LGBT people. The bill also instructs the State Department to work through embassies and consulates around the world to help fulfill the goals of the UN General Assembly resolution on LGBT rights that the U.S. joined in March. While the State Department has done a good job in recent years of including LGBT issues in its human rights reporting, and we have seen many positive signs from the Department under Secretary Clinton, this language, if passed, will further help the U.S. take a leadership role in fighting the mistreatment of LGBT people around the world. HRC, the Council for Global Equality, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFFA) and other groups have been calling on the State Department to address the inequities facing Foreign Service officers and urging the Obama Administration to take a more active role in condemning violence and discrimination against LGBT people overseas. We thank Chairman Berman for including these important provisions in the Foreign Relations Reauthorization Act and will work to ensure that they become law. With support from the White House, the State Department and, now, in Congress as well, we are closer than ever to ending this discrimination against LGBT Foreign Service officers.