June 7, 2018 at 2:31 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Leading U.S. diplomats attend Pride month celebrations

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Leading diplomats who implement U.S. foreign policy have attended Pride month events this week. (Photo by Ted Eytan; courtesy Flickr)

High-ranking diplomats who implement U.S. foreign policy this week attended Pride month celebrations.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) on Tuesday delivered remarks at GLIFAA’s annual Pride month reception at the State Department. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not attend the event, but he issued a Pride month statement on June 1.

“The United States joins people around the world in celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Pride month and reaffirms its commitment to protecting and defending the human rights of all, including LGBTI persons,” said Pompeo.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green and former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe on Wednesday spoke at USAID’s annual Pride month reception.

“I want to say thank you to all of my LGBTI colleagues who are here today,” said Green, who in his remarks specifically acknowledged Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent LGBTI activist and former USAID employee in Bangladesh who was murdered in 2016. “Your voice is important individually, but also together. Your advocacy and your voice individually and all together makes us a stronger agency and it makes us a better agency, and I think makes us a more responsive agency.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley on Wednesday acknowledged Pride month in a statement.

“This June, we join our friends in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community around the world who are celebrating Pride month,” said Haley. “At the U.N. we see the importance of defending freedoms of LGBTI persons from governments that violate their own people’s human rights.”

“The United States embraces personal freedom, rejects discrimination and supports the global LGBTI community in standing up for their human rights,” she added.

U.S. embassies and consulates in Paraguay, Cuba and other countries have publicly acknowledged Pride month and the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by raising the rainbow flag and holding receptions with LGBTI rights advocates.

“It was an honor to preside over the first public ceremony of the raising of the rainbow flag during LGBTI Pride month today at the embassy,” said U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Lee McClenny on his Twitter page on Wednesday. “The fight to protect the rights, dignity and equity of all people is a task that we must undertake together.”

The Trump administration continues to promote LGBTI rights abroad. This year’s Pride month is nevertheless taking place against the backdrop of growing criticism over the White House’s domestic LGBT rights record and its overall foreign policy.

Newly installed U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, has sparked controversy with comments that include his desire to “empower” European conservatives. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Monday said Grenell “should be recalled immediately” if he “is unwilling to refrain from political statements.”

Pompeo earlier this year during his confirmation hearing sparked widespread criticism among LGBTI rights advocates when he did not specifically say whether he thinks “being gay is a perversion.” Pompeo’s opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” also came under scrutiny before the U.S. Senate confirmed him to succeed Rex Tillerson.

“In many parts of the world, LGBTI individuals and their supporters continue to face violence, arrest, harassment and intimidation for standing up for their human rights, participating in peaceful marches and rallies, expressing their views, and simply being who they are,” said Pompeo in his Pride month statement. “LGBTI persons — like all persons — must be free to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, without fear of reprisal. As Americans, we place a high value on these rights and freedoms, which all persons deserve to enjoy fully and equally.” 

Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence have yet to publicly acknowledge Pride month.

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

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