October 26, 2016 at 3:49 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
USAID bans anti-LGBT discrimination among contractors

Susan Rice, Barack Obama Administration, White House Forum on Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, gay news, Washington Blade

National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Oct. 26, 2016, announced the U.S. Agency for International Development has banned contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A U.S. Agency for International Development rule that formally bans contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity took effect on Tuesday.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice made the announcement on Wednesday during a speech at American University’s School of International Service in Northwest Washington.

She said the rule means that any organization with a USAID contract “must ensure that all people can benefit from these federally-funded programs regardless of race, religion, disability or sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“it’s a major step towards ensuring that American assistance is provided in a fair and equitable manner,” said Rice.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and Human Rights First CEO Elisa Massimino also spoke at the event. Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry was among the hundreds of people who were in the audience when Rice made her announcement.

“This new administration policy marks an important step forward for USAID and our partners, and ensures our inclusive approach to development will continue into the future,” said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith in a statement.

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline described the new rule as “critical” in a statement the LGBT Equality Caucus released.

“Both here in the United States and abroad, LGBT people are routinely targets of violence and discrimination,” he said. “USAID’s latest rule shows the world that we take the wellbeing of LGBT people seriously, and that we will not tolerate denying LGBT people critical services.”

American World Jewish Service President Robert Bank also applauded USAID.

“Foreign aid must be delivered fairly and justly to all in need, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” he said.

The new policy does not require contractors to extend nondiscrimination protections to employees of organizations abroad that receive U.S. funding. It also does not include USAID grantees.

“USAID has taken an important step in ensuring that people around the world who are being helped by U.S. taxpayer-funded programs are able to access them without fear of discrimination because of who they are or whom they love,” said HRC Director of Government Affairs David Stacy in a statement. “This is a critical protection that can make a huge difference in the lives of LGBTQ people.”

“While this is a step forward, we ultimately hope to see all implementers across all U.S. foreign affairs agencies — including USAID — include non-discrimination policies that cover not only the services they provide, but also the people they hire,” he added. ”No organization supported by U.S. taxpayer dollars should turn anyone away because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Rice announced the new rule nearly five years after President Obama directed agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad.

Obama’s executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees took effect in April 2015. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and other advocacy groups have urged the White House to prohibit discrimination against LGBT-owned businesses in the federal procurement process.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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