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Gay State Department official tapped for ambassadorship

Daniel Baer would represent the U.S. at OSCE in Vienna

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Daniel Baer, United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The White House on Monday announced that President Obama has nominated Daniel Baer to become the next ambassador of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE.)

Baer, who is the current assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. State Department, would become the fourth openly LGBT person to serve as a U.S. ambassador. David Huebner has been the ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa since 2009. Michael Guest was the ambassador to Romania from 2001-2004 and James Hormel was the ambassador to Luxembourg from 1999-2001.

OSCE, which is based in Vienna, comprises 57 European, Asian and North American countries that cooperate on security, terrorism, economic and human rights issues. The organization formed in the 1970s during the Cold War.

Baer, who has been in his current position since Nov. 2009, was previously an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He was a fellow Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics from 2007-2008 and worked at the Boston Consulting Group from 2004-2007.

Baer discussed the State Department’s efforts to support LGBT rights efforts abroad during an interview with the Washington Blade last month.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 proclaimed “gay rights are human rights” during a landmark speech she gave in Geneva to commemorate International Human Rights Day. Obama on the same day issued a presidential memorandum that directed government agencies that implement American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights in the countries in which they work.

Secretary of State John Kerry on June 5 released a video that marked LGBT Pride Month.

The U.S. Ambassador to Moldova William Moser on May 19 marched in an LGBT Pride parade in Chisinau, the country’s capital. Embassies in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Vietnam and other countries last month commemorated the annual International Day Against Homophobia.

Foreign service officers have also participated in LGBT-specific events in Chile and other nations over the last year.

Clinton last August honored Ugandan LGBT rights advocate Frank Mugisha at the U.S. embassy in Kampala, the country’s capital. She, Kerry and Obama have repeatedly spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in countries that include Honduras, Jamaica, Russia and Zimbabwe.

Baer, who spoke to the Blade two days before the start of a USAID-backed training in Bogotá, Colombia, that 30 LGBT advocates from across the South American country attended, said the former First Lady’s 2011 speech and Obama’s referendum “gave a boost to efforts that were already underway.”

“Part of what we’re associated with in the world is human rights leadership and that means taking on the opportunities to speak up and to be a voice for the voiceless and to advocate for equal dignity for all persons by virtue of their being persons,” he said. “This is fully consistent with that, which has been a bi-partisan commitment through Republican and Democratic administrations for a long-time.”

He said ambassadors and their staffs continue to look for opportunities to engage the governments with whom they work on these issues.

“Where there are opportunities to either cooperate or to raise concerns, that’s something we do on a government-to-government channel,” Baer said.

He added the State Department also seeks to identify LGBT advocates and organizations and “try to take our cues from them” as to how to best support them.

“One of the things we can do is help them build their capacity to do the work that NGOs (non-governmental organizations) do,” Baer said.

Baer did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment on Monday.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin applauded Baer’s nomination.

“Daniel has worked tirelessly to promote democracy and human rights in every corner of the globe, helping to secure and protect the freedoms of the world’s most vulnerable communities,” he said in a statement.

The Washington Post on Monday reported Obama is expected to nominate as many as five gay men to fill ambassadorships in the coming weeks. They include former Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, whom the newspaper reported the president will tap to become the next U.S. ambassador to Australia.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tom Henning

    June 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    It would be even better if President Obama nominated a gay man or lesbian woman to be US Ambassador to Russia, or one of the African countries that are passing anti-gay laws. Preferably the candidate would be married, thus accompanying the ambassosor to state events, so as to force their leadership to see what American values truly look like.

  2. Anonymous

    June 12, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    How do I get an Ambassador appointment? I would do a great job!

  3. Doug McCulley

    June 12, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    4 ambassadors- and STILL no gay person qualified enough for a Cabinet post! PUH LEAZE!

  4. Neil Roth

    June 13, 2013 at 12:57 am

    How nice. But he refuses to do the one thing he could do to protect a large segment of our population: sign the Executive Order enabling FENDA. Sadly, Obama is turning into just another politician.

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More Americans personally know someone who’s transgender, non-binary: survey

42% know a trans person, 26% know someone using gender-neutral pronouns

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More Americans personally know a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, according to new data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

A survey found 42 percent of Americans know someone who’s transgender, who is up from 37 percent who said so in 2017. Although most Americans, 57 percent, still say they don’t know anyone who’s transgender, that’s down from 63 percent five years ago.

Similarly, 26 percent of Americans say they know someone who uses non-binary gender pronouns compared to the 18 percent in 2018 who said they knew someone uses pronouns such as “they” as opposed to “he” or “she.”

At the same time, comfort levels with using gender-neutral pronouns – as well as their opinions on whether someone’s gender can differ from the sex they were assigned at birth – has remained about the same. Half of Americans say they would be either very or somewhat comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone if asked to do so, compared to 48 percent who say they would not be comfortable. The numbers, according to Pew Research, are basically unchanged since 2018.

The survey found profound differences by age, party, and education in knowing a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, although in both parties growing shares of Americans report knowing a person who’s transgender.

For Americans under age 30, some 53 percent say they know a transgender person, which is up from 44 percent in 2017. In the same age group, 46 percent of younger U.S. adults know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 32 percent in 2018.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey of 10,606 U.S. adults between June 14 and June 17. The survey is weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories, according to Pew Research.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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