November 1, 2016 at 11:09 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
No ‘exemption’ under new USAID contractor rule

Honduras, gay news, Washington Blade

More than 300 LGBT rights advocates from nearly two dozen countries gathered in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, from Oct. 2-3, 2015, for an LGBT rights conference the U.S. Agency for International Development co-organized. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development this week provided additional details of a new rule that bans contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

USAID Senior LGBT Coordinator Todd Larson told the Washington Blade on Monday the policy applies to all countries in which his agency operates.

“The clause will be inserted into all future USAID contract solicitations and contracts,” he said.

“It will apply to all USAID contractors, who must insert the clause into any subcontract(s,)” added Larson. “There is no exemption or process for applying for an exemption.”

Afghanistan, Egypt, Paraguay and Uganda are among the more than 70 countries in which USAID operates. The agency awards roughly 1,300 contracts each year.

Larson told the Blade the new rule that formally took effect on Oct. 25 specifically “pertains to the beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of supplies or services procured” through USAID contracts.

The 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.

Larson said USAID has “a separate clause” that incorporates President Obama’s executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees. He told the Blade there is a “separate standard provision applicable to grants and cooperative agreements” with non-government organizations “that strongly encourages them to include protections against employment discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“Extending the new nondiscrimination clause to grants and cooperative agreements is an internal process, involving an update to USAID operational policy,” said Larson. “That process is well underway.”

Larson further noted “the tenets of nondiscrimination were and are still being enforced through our normal contracting and grants processes” before the new rule took effect.

“Nondiscrimination is an inherent principle of USAID’s foreign assistance,” he told the Blade.

“Even before the new policy went into effect our contractors and grant recipients were not permitted to introduce discrimination into their awards in any way that was outside the scope of those agreements,” added Larson. “The new clause and pending provision, at their core, serve as explicit reminder of that.”

Promoting nondiscrimination is ‘right thing to do’

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said during a speech at American University in Northwest Washington on Oct. 26 that the new USAID policy had taken effect. She made the announcement nearly five years after Obama directed agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad.

USAID and the State Department coordinate the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership that seeks to promote LGBT rights around the world.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute has worked with USAID on LGBT-specific initiatives in Colombia, Honduras, Peru and other countries. Larson, who worked at the U.N. from 1990-2010, traveled to Jamaica with Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry in May 2015.

Lembaya Kesehatan Nahdlatul Ulama, which is part of Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesian organization that supports the country’s LGBT rights crackdown, received $2.6 million from USAID in order to increase its ability to detect tuberculosis cases and treat them. The grant began in 2012 and will continue through next year.

Larson declined to speculate about whether the new USAID rule would remain in place after Obama leaves office. He stressed, however, there is “widespread support for this policy.”

“USAID pursued this policy because promoting nondiscrimination in foreign assistance is both the smart thing to do and the right thing to do,” said Larson.

Randy Berry, Dane Lewis, Todd Larson, gay news, Washington Blade

From left; Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry, J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis and Todd Larson of the U.S. Agency for International Development attend a reception at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 21, 2015. (Photo courtesy of J-FLAG)

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

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