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Clinton: LGBT-inclusion ‘the smart thing’ for U.S. foreign policy

Secretary speaks before LGBT Foreign Service officers

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Hillary Clinton, Department of State, GLIFAA, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, gay news, Washington Blade
Hillary Clinton, Department of State, GLIFAA, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, gay news, Washington Blade

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered on Wednesday what might be her last public address before an LGBT audience as chief diplomat for the United States when she told group of LGBT Foreign Service officers their service is integral to the country.

“Creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing,” Clinton said. “And part of that is because the nature of diplomacy has changed and we should and need to keep up. Today, we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but from people from every continent and every walk of life, and, in order to do that, we need a diplomatic core that is as diverse as the world we work in.”

Additionally, Clinton said having an LGBT-inclusive State Department makes the Foreign Service corps “better advocates” for American values.

“When anyone is persecuted anywhere and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted, we’re kept from fully participating in their societies,” Clinton said. “They suffer, but so do we. 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.”

Clinton delivered the remarks in Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department to observe the 20th anniversary of the department’s LGBT affinity group, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, or GLIFAA.

She reminded the estimated 200 people in attendance that world in which GLIFAA was created was much different than today and the organization has worked over the course of 20 years to create a fairer workplace for LGBT Foreign Service officers.

“As we heard, in 1992, you could be fired for being gay,” Clinton said. “Just think about all of the exceptional public servant — the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts — fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what we lost because we were unable of their hard work, expertise and experience.”

Clinton also gave recognition to Tom Gallagher, whom she said joined the State Department in 1965 and in the early 1970’s became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer. He was in the audience during Clinton’s speech and rose when the secretary mentioned him.

“He served in the face of criticism and threats, but that did not stop him from serving,” Clinton said. “I want to take this moment just to recognize him, but also to put into context what this journey has meant for people for people of Tom and my generation because I don’t want any of you who are younger ever to take for granted what it took for people like Tom Gallagher to pave the way for all of you. It is not a moment for us to be nostaglic; it is a way for us to remember.”

The speech occurs almost one year after Clinton gave a high-profile speech in Geneva in favor of LGBT human rights, telling LGBT people that face human rights abuses overseas they “have an ally in the United States of America.” Clinton noted her speech from the previous year during her remarks at the State Department.

“When I gave that speech in Geneva and said we were going to make this a priority for American foreign policy, I didn’t see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for,” Clinton said.

Toby Quaranta, who’s gay and president of the D.C Young Democrats, was among those in attendance and said the speech was “an example of why she is such a popular secretary of state.”

“She wants to make advances for LGBT people not just as a way to advance the cause of human rights, but also as a way to advance American interests abroad,” Quaranta said. “It’s a moral issue with a pragmatic end. That’s her way of doing business, and that is why she has been so successful as secretary of state.”

No new announcements were made during the State Department address, but the event was geared toward thanking those present as opposed to addressing policy issues.

Clinton gave no update during the speech on where she stands on marriage equality. She remains one of the few high-profile Democrats who’s yet to publicly endorse same-sex marriage and has remained silent in the issue even after her employer President Obama came out for marriage equality in May.

Also absent from Clinton’s speech was any mention of anti-gay legislation in Uganda that’s received considerable international attention out of fears the bill may soon be headed toward passage. It would institute a sentence of life in prison for homosexuality acts and possibly the death penalty.

But Clinton did tout the LGBT achievements the State Department has made under her watch. Among them are extending benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers. On transgender issues, the department instituted policy against workplace discrimination for transgender employees and eased the process to allow transgender Americans to change the gender marker on their passports.

“Together we have worked to make something very simple and right come true: Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and sharing a life with the people with they love,” Clinton said.

Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff and a long-time adviser who worked on her 2008 presidential campaign, also commended those present as she said her boss seeks to ensure each person across the globe can “live up to his or her God-given potential.”

“That principle is a very simple one, but its implementation too often requires courage and persistence, relentlessness and willingness to actual do something when doing nothing is absolutely the easiest course of action,” Mills said. “Those who have been part of and stayed with GLIFAA, they have always managed to do something, and the work that you all have done together has brought the change that we have seen in the department.”

Clinton has indicated that she intends to step down as secretary of state after the conclusion of Obama’s first term. Speculation persists that she may pursue that Democratic nomination for the presidency when Obama completes his second and final term in 2016, although she hasn’t stated she’d run.

Lane Hudson, a gay Democratic activist and outspoken Clinton supporter, said he expects her to maintain a strong relationship with the LGBT community whatever her course of action she pursues after she leaves the State Department.

“Given her long history with the LGBT community and her exemplary record on issues of equality at the State Department, I fully expect there to be a meaningful ongoing relationship between her and the community, whether she pursues the presidency or continues to advocate for equality for all as a private citizen,” Hudson said.

Others who spoke before the audience were GLIFAA President Ken Kero-Mentz, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, and Daniel Baer, who’s gay and deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor.

Notable members of the LGBT community who were in the audience 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, who was first openly transgender woman political appointee in any U.S. administration.

NOTE: This article has been updated to include a statement from Toby Quaranta.

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Florida

Gay Days 2023 will go on despite DeSantis and anti-LGBTQ animus

Tens of thousands expected at Walt Disney World

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Attendees at the Walt Disney World GAY DAYS in June 2017 (Photo courtesy of GayDays®/Facebook)

Equality Florida has issued a travel advisory to LGBTQ people that traveling to the state isn’t safe given the plethora of anti-LGBTQ laws. On May 23, the Human Rights Campaign joined with Equality Florida urging LGBTQ people to avoid travel to Florida.

Citing six anti-LGBTQ bills passed and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the two groups noted that while not a blanket recommendation against travel nor a call for boycott, the travel advisory outlines the devastating impacts of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community.

As Pride month gets underway Thursday, an annual event that is celebrating its 32nd anniversary this year and draws tens of thousands of LGBTQ people to Walt Disney World and the Disney resort areas near Orlando, is slated to commence over the next four day period.

Wearing red shirts to identify themselves, participants in the unofficial Disney Gay Days celebration gather for parties, meet-ups and enjoying a Disney holiday. In an interview with the Associated Press, Joseph Clark, CEO of Gay Days, Inc., said that he is hoping that this year can see upwards of 150,000 LGBTQ people descending on Central Florida to mark the start of Pride season.

In addition to Disney, the LGBTQ folks will also be visiting the neighboring amusement parks of Universal Studios and SeaWorld. 

Pride celebrations this year in Florida have taken on a different tone, St. Cloud organizers of the ‘PRIDE in St. Cloud’ scheduled for June 10 cancelled the event joining a growing list of Pride events being cancelled as a “climate of fear” has overtaken the state in the wake of DeSantis’ extreme new anti-LGBTQ laws.

The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast notified the greater Treasure Coast community that the Pride parade was cancelled and that Pridefest will only be accessible to residents 21-years-old or older.

The Wilton Manors City Commission as well as the city’s mayor voted to amending the permit for Stonewall Pride, Inc., to force compliance of a new state law that expands the definition of “live adult entertainment” to include drag entertainment.

Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for the largest state-wide LGBTQ equality and human rights advocacy group Equality Florida, in a text with the Washington Blade noted: “These are the intended chilling effects of DeSantis’ slate of hate legislation. Just as the Don’t Say LGBTQ law didn’t direct school districts to rip down rainbow stickers, this bill does not ban drag or pride. But it uses vague language and threats to induce self-censorship.”

GayDays® Ticket and Merchandise Center at the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld. (Photo courtesy of GayDays®)

“We continue to be that blue speck in a sea of red, but ultimately laws are laws, and that is the interesting situation we are in,” Clark told Deadline, adding that many folks have reached out to ask whether it’s safe to visit Florida.

In a Facebook post earlier this week, GayDays® announced the cancellation and “reimagining” of Taste of GayDays® as “due to challenges caused by the current political climate in Florida which recently caused concerns for a large group of our restaurant partners.”

“UPDATE: We’re deeply sorry to announce the cancellation and ‘reimagining’ of Taste of GayDays® due to challenges caused by the current political climate in Florida which recently caused concerns for a large group of our restaurant partners. Because of these circumstances, and though we adamantly tried to recruit additional vendors, it became clear that we would be unable to provide the exceptional experience that our guests have come to expect at the Taste of GayDays® Event.

But FEAR NOT! We’ve planned something special for you all. Join us for the FREE GayDays Orlando 2023 ‘Taste of GayDays® Entertainment Preview Show’ at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 1! This new event aims to give a preview of several other special events during GayDays® Orlando including performances by some of our Miss GayDays® Pageant competitors, introductions and meet and greets with Mr. GayDays® Leather Competitors and more. Please know — we are committed to delivering extraordinary experiences at GayDays® Orlando.

As we are days away from the start of GayDays Orlando 2023 this was not an announcement we had expected to have to make. We will not let this deter us! We are determined to work towards changing the mindset of people and ensure that future events uphold the high standards that are synonymous with GayDays®. It is because of you, that together, we’ll make a difference,” the group wrote.

GayDays® at Area Theme Parks | #RedShirtDays schedule linked here: (Link)

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The White House

Biden’s Pride month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

States across the country have passed anti-LGBTQ laws

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The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing in December 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just as the 1969 Stonewall riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, state and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen states have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in state capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: Combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the Justice Department is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting transgender youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: Its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then three; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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Pentagon

Defense secretary orders cancellation of drag show at Nev. Air Force base

Event was to have taken place at Nellis AFB on Thursday

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Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

A previously scheduled drag show to kick off Pride month on the sprawling Nellis Air Force Base, an advanced combat aviation training facility for the U.S. Air Force northeast of Las Vegas, was cancelled Wednesday according to a Pentagon official, after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped in.

A Pentagon source familiar with the matter told the Washington Blade that Milley informed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., that it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases and the show needed to be canceled or moved off base. 

The issue over drag performances was a focus at a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year on March 29, when anti-LGBTQ Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) demanded in an angry tone that Austin and Milley explain why drag queen story hours were being hosted on U.S. military installations. The Florida Republican mentioned bases in Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Germany.

In a highly publicized incident in May 2022, Stars and Stripes reported that the Commanding General of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany had a drag queen story time, that was to be held in honor of Pride month cancelled. 

According to Stars and Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ news outlet in Canada, the Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers. 

Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, III, and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet with U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez, Department of Defense)

A Pentagon official referring to the drag show at Nellis said Milley was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base after being informed about it earlier this week.

The drag show was scheduled for Thursday, but Maj. Gen. Case A. Cunningham, the commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis was informed in the past few days that it must either be canceled or moved off base. 

On May 23, Gaetz sent a letter to Austin and Milley, alleging that the “pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events,” had a June 1 Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., event scheduled.

Gaetz went on to write that “Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called ‘family-friendly’ drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement.” 

In his letter Gaetz also demanded to know: 

  • Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
  • Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
  • If this event goes forward, whether on June 1 or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis, in June 2021 the base had hosted a Pride month drag show titled “Drag-u-Nellis.” The spokesperson noted the 2021 show was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. 

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