October 19, 2017 at 11:07 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
State Department spokesperson acknowledges Spirit Day

Heather Nauert, gay news, Washington Blade

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Oct. 19, 2017, acknowledged Spirit Day during a press briefing.[/caption]State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Thursday acknowledged a campaign that seeks to combat bullying.

Nauert at the beginning of a press briefing told reporters that “today, along with many of my colleagues here at the State Department, including members of the LGBTI community, in association with GLIFAA (a group that represents LGBT and intersex Foreign Service members), we are — many of us are wearing purple today to celebrate Spirit Day.”

“On Spirit Day, we speak out against bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex persons and stand with LGBTI youth who disproportionally face bullying and harassment because of their identities,” she said. 

Nauert — who was wearing purple — said LGBT and intersex people around the world “face increasing physical attacks, arbitrary arrests just because of who they are or who they love.” 

“Our global policy is to oppose violence and discrimination targeting LGBTI persons, including from governments and non-state actors,” she added. “Spirit Day is about the freedom to be oneself without fear of violence or intimidation. Dignity and equality for all persons are the founding constitutional principle of U.S. democracy and they will continue to drive our diplomacy.”

GLAAD’s Spirit Day takes place each year on the third Thursday of October. The first Spirit Day took place in 2010.

“Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities,” says GLAAD on its website. “Pledging to ‘go purple’ on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.”

Special LGBTI envoy remains in place

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this year expressed concern about the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in Chechnya with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday said it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department that seeks the letter to Lavrov in which Tillerson expressed his concern.

Nauert on Oct. 3 in a statement to the Washington Blade expressed concern over anti-LGBT crackdowns in Azerbaijan and Egypt. Tillerson in June in a statement that acknowledged Pride month said the State Department “affirms its solidarity with human rights defenders and civil society organizations working around the world to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons to live with dignity and freedom.”

Tillerson in August indicated the special U.S. envoy for the human rights of LGBT and intersex people will remain in place under a State Department overhaul.

This year’s Spirit Day coincides with growing concern and outrage in the U.S. and around the world over the White House’s positions on LGBT and intersex-specific issues. Advocates in Honduras and Chile with whom the Blade has spoken in recent weeks indicate they continue to receive support from U.S. officials in their respective countries in spite of the Trump administration’s positions.

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

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