June 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Kerry: LGBT rights are human rights

John Kerry, State Department, gay news, Washington Blade, GLIFAA

Secretary of State John Kerry (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian LGBT rights advocate and journalist Masha Gessen are among those who spoke at the annual Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies Pride celebration that took place at the State Department on Thursday.

“LGBT rights are human rights, and human rights are LGBT rights,” said Kerry.

Kerry during his speech highlighted a number of policy changes and other developments that have taken place since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. These include the ability of gays and lesbians to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration purposes and the recognition of marriages of foreign diplomats who are assigned to the U.S.

“That’s what it means to fight and that’s what it means to win in a battle that we all know matters enormously, not as a matter of making these things a privilege, but to make sure that they are, in fact, a right,” said Kerry.

GLIFAA, Robyn McCutcheon, gay news, Washington Blade

GLIFAA President Robyn McCutcheon (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kerry praised GLIFAA President Robyn McCutcheon, who is the first foreign service officer to come out as transgender, for her work with the Office of Personnel Management in support of efforts to end the ban on federal employee health plans from covering gender transition-related care.

OPM last Friday announced as of next year it would no longer require federal health insurance plans to include the so-called “transgender exclusion.”

Kerry also applauded Gessen, who fled Russia last December with her wife and their three children because of the Kremlin’s ongoing LGBT rights crackdown, for “her own special perseverance and advocacy.”

“When all the repressive anti-LGBT laws in Russia threatened literally to break apart her family, she put up a fight,” said Kerry. “The government in Moscow may look at Masha as a troublemaker to contend with, but here in the United States, we know that she is a wonderful person — a mother, a journalist, an extraordinary human rights defender — and we are honored by her presence here.”

Masha Gessen, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade, GLIFAA

Masha Gessen (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The GLIFAA Pride event took place shortly after the White House announced travel bans against Ugandan officials responsible for anti-LGBT human rights abuses in their country.

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban officials responsible for anti-LGBT human rights abuses in their respective countries from entering the U.S. The gay Democrat’s proposal would also mandate the State Department to document anti-LGBT human rights abuses in its annual human rights reports.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) last week introduced a bill that would create a special envoy within the State Department who would coordinate Washington’s efforts in support of global LGBT rights.

“From Uganda to Russia to Iran, LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack dignity, undermine safety, and violate human rights,” said Kerry. “We each have a responsibility to push back against a global trend of rising violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.”

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

  • Then Kerry doesn't mind clearly defining what homosexuality is? Oh yeah, that's not kosher. It's a stereotype, and nothing more. it certainly doesn't deserve all the attention it's getting from the advertising community this year, but here we are. Donuts, dicks and headache pills all are possibly gay? Give it arrest or suck a…

  • I was very honored to be invited to attend this event. It was very powerfully moving. Secretary Kerry spoke eloquently about where we are and where we are going. Robyn and my other friends at GLIFAA do indeed deserve much credit for progress that is going on. I am very proud of all of them.

  • It is disappointing that John Kerry would rather send a member of a minority who openly advertise their sexual deviance than a civil, family-friendly diplomat with good morals and values to serve American interests in foreign countries, many of whom view homosexuality as a perversion that must be eliminated from this earth.

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