July 1, 2015 at 12:02 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Clinton emails: ‘We should emphasize LGBT human rights’

Hillary Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary Clinton called for emphasis of LGBT rights in her State Department emails. Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The State Department late Tuesday made public 3,000 pages of emails from Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state, including one message in which she seeks to “emphasize LGBT human rights” in Iraq amid media reports of anti-LGBT human rights violations in the country.

Clinton, who’s now pursing the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, expressed the view in response to a 2009 Voice of America report forwarded to her by adviser Cheryl Mills on the alleged murder and torture of gay Iraqi men, many of whom reportedly said they were more secure under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Clinton responded 11 minutes after Mills sent her the article.

“So sad and terrible,” Clinton writes. “We should ask Chris Hill to raise this w govt. If we ever get Posner confirmed we should emphasize LGBT human rights.”

Clinton email #1

The Chris Hill to which Clinton is referring is likely the U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the first two years of the Obama administration. Posner is likely Michael Posner, who came to serve in the State Department after his confirmation as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

Clinton’s call for pushing LGBT rights within the State Department is consistent with her stated philosophy that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights” and her 2011 speech in Geneva in which she highlighted international LGBT rights concerns.

Other emails in the batch unveiled on Tuesday, which span from March to December 2009, demonstrate the hang-wringing on the perceived lack of progress on LGBT issues in the first years of the Obama administration and the potential creation of a State Department official dedicated to LGBT human rights.

The emails reveal that among the individuals forwarding articles to the Clinton State Department on LGBT rights was Richard Socarides, a gay New York-based advocate who advised former President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues.

Socarides told the Washington Blade that as a former White House official he sometimes passed along information and reports he thought would be of interest to the State Department. Sometimes, Socarides said, Clinton’s staff reached out to him with a specific question.

“From what I can tell, these emails are all part of that back-and-forth,” Socarides.

In one email to Mills, Socarides forwards a Gay City News article on anti-LGBT brutality in Iraq and writes, “You guys will have to deal with this at some point if not already.”

In response to the exchange, Socarides expressed satisfaction with how issues related to the rights of LGBT Iraqis were handled, saying it was part of ongoing concern about the country and “raised by our government at many levels and on repeated occasions.”

In another email dated May, 22, 2009, Mills forwards to Clinton an article in the Advocate on a draft letter signaling the State Department’s intention to extend partner benefits to gay Foreign Service officers.

Clinton’s response isn’t revealed, but Mills commentary on the article is simply “Oh my.”

Clinton Email #2

In another December 2009 email in which he forwards a Voice of America article on evangelical leaders spreading anti-gay sentiment in Africa, Socarides recommends the creation of an international LGBT point person.

“There is a lot of appreciation for everything the Dept has done around this so far and I think you could really build on it by putting someone there in charge of international LGBT human right issues,” Socarides said.

Socarides’ email was in turn forwarded to Clinton by Mills, who endorsed the idea, saying, “I think this is a good idea — what do you think?”

Clinton’s initial response was “Mira patel in sp told me she is already starting to do this. Do you want someone in drl.” The rest of Clinton’s response is redacted by the State Department. Mira Patel served at the State Department as an advisor for Clinton after having served on her Senate staff.

The response from Clinton apparently wasn’t adequate for Mills, who responded she “would want someone higher profile” and Patel is likely preparing a “response to incoming rather as an affirmative agenda.”

“Not sure how I got to be the person pushing all things in this area — think from the earlier reports on family benefits but as a general matter — we have a reaction mechanism right how (to others, to me sending emails re Uganda (and now Uganda is doing same kind of anti-gay law)) etc.,” Mills writes. “This would be someone who’s profile would be an affirmative agenda.”

Clinton has a short response to Mills eight minutes later, “Let’s discuss.” The Clinton emails don’t reveal the resolution of this discussion, which may have been taken offline.

In response to the email exchange, Socardies pointed to the appointment of Daniel Baer as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor. Part of the portfolio for Baer, who now serves as U.S. ambassador to Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe, was international LGBT rights issues.

No specific LGBT international affairs official was appointed during Clinton’s tenure, but the State Department named Randy Berry as special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons under current Secretary of State John Kerry.

Clinton email #3

The emails unveiled by the State Department aren’t the last missives expected to be made public. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request and the direction from Clinton herself, the emails are slated to keep coming on a rolling basis and all 55,000 pages should be public by Jan. 29. Clinton deleted an estimated 32,000 emails on recommendation from her legal team.

Over the course of her tenure at the State Department period, Clinton opposed same-sex marriage. The Blade could find no emails discussing the issue or any potential evolution on her views. Clinton endorsed same-sex marriage after she left the State Department in 2013.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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