June 11, 2013 at 6:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay State Department official tapped for ambassadorship
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.

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

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