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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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Biden administration to ban discrimination against LGBTQ patients

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The Biden administration announced on Monday it would enforce civil rights protections under Obamacare to prohibit discrimination in health care against patients for being LGBTQ, reversing policy during the Trump years excluding transgender status as a protected characteristic under the law.

The Department of Health & Human Services declared it would enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex, and begin to take up cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement the Supreme Court has “made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” Becerra said. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The move is consistent with the executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the furthest extent possible. Federal agencies were directed to comply within 100 days of the executive order, which is about now and a short time after Biden’s first 100 days in office.

The announcement with respect to Section 1557 comes on the same day as the hearing took place this morning in Bagly v. HHS, a case before a federal court in Massachusetts challenging Trump’s undoing of transgender protections under the law. An attorney with the U.S. Justice Department announced a new notice of proposed rule-making is coming with respect to Section 1557.

Sharita Gruberg, vice president for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement the change “assures LGBTQ people that their rights will be upheld at the doctor’s office, vaccine sites, and everywhere else they seek health care and coverage.”

“The administration’s announcement that it will enforce these protections are a critical step toward addressing vaccine hesitancy among LGBTQ people, a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and seriously harmed by the previous administration’s attempts to permit discrimination against LGBTQ patients, Gruberg added.

The past three administrations have instituted policy on LGBTQ protections based on their interpretation of Section 1557. Each move had varying implications and directions for LGBTQ patients.

The Obama administration issued a rule in 2016 interpreting Section 1557 to apply to cases of anti-transgender discrimination and discrimination against women who have had abortions, which was consistent with court rulings at the time. However, that move was enjoined by a nationwide court order in Texas as a result of litigation filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Trump administration, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, made final a regulation proposed last year rescinding the Obama administration’s transgender protections under Section 1557. Faced with criticism, the Trump administration defended itself by saying its move was consistent with the court order in Texas, although it seemed to ignore the decision from the higher court.

The new rule from HHS goes above and the beyond the Obama administration by instituting protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the proposed rule would be a new regulation entirely, or seek to modify the changes that were made in the two previous administrations. The Blade has placed a request seeking comment with HHS.

Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement the new HHS rule is a welcome change after the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender patients.

“It’s unfortunate that such an obvious step had to be taken; the AMA welcomes this common-sense understanding of the law,” Bailey said. “This move is a victory for health equity and ends a dismal chapter in which a federal agency sought to remove civil rights protections.”

Discrimination in health care is an experience transgender people commonly report. The U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015 found one-third of responders said they had at least one negative experience in health care related to being transgender. Further, 23 percent of responders said they didn’t seek health care because they feared being mistreated and one-third said they didn’t go to a provider because they couldn’t afford it.

A Center for American Progress survey from 2018 had similar findings with respect to transgender people and patients with being gay, lesbian and bisexual or queer. Eight percent of responders said a doctor refused to see them because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, while 28 percent of providers said a doctor refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Hospitals, especially religiously affiliated providers, refusing to provide transition-related care, including gender assignment surgery, is another frequently reported incident for transgender patients. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has filed litigation against hospitals under Section 1557 for refusing to perform the procedure.

Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to obtain Senate confirmation, hailed the HHS rule change in a statement.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” Levine said. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

Although the Biden administration’s announcement is a welcome move for LGBTQ advocacy groups, the change is not without critics.

John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who declares himself a supporter of transgender rights, said the policy could have unintended consequences, which he said has become evident in the British health system.

“[Transgender] individuals with a penis but no vagina are being asked to have medical tests on their non-existent cervices, while [transgender] persons with a vagina and cervix will not be asked, under new guidelines which appear to place lives at risk and encourage a physically impossible medical exam on organs which simply do not exist,” Banzhaf said. “And, carrying this absurdity to its totally illogical conclusion, a patient with a penis and a full beard was offered a cervical test because, despite his clearly masculine appearance and style of dress, he registered himself as being gender neutral.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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