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Treasury Department endorses Asian Development Bank LGBTQ safeguard

Final vote expected in March 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

The Treasury Department has endorsed an LGBTQ-specific Asian Development Bank safeguard.

The Washington Blade obtained a May 31 email that Alex Severens, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Development Results and Accountability, sent to Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley and Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy.

Severens in the email said the Treasury Department “has considered this issue carefully and has received thoughtful input from a variety of stakeholders.”

“Treasury agrees with your recommendation to adopt a standalone gender and SOGIESC safeguard,” wrote Severens. “In order to protect all vulnerable groups, we also believe it important to include a more general safeguard for all vulnerable groups that promotes non-discrimination and inclusion of all people.”

The Asian Development Bank, which is based in the Philippines, seeks to promote economic and social development throughout the Asia-Pacific Region.

It held consultations on the proposed safeguard earlier this week. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the AFL-CIO are among those that have endorsed the safeguard.

“United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) strongly supports the need for a self-standing safeguard on gender equality that addresses the full range of rights of women and girls and the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons,” wrote Gabriel Alves de Faria in a June 7 letter in which the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted.

The Treasury Department has not responded to the Blade’s request for comment. Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who is the first openly lesbian American ambassador, in April during an exclusive interview expressed support for the safeguard.

“In all the institutions, we come up with ensuring that any of our projects and our policies do no harm and maybe even improve the lives of the beneficiaries we try to serve,” said Wong. “Ultimately, it’s about economic development for these countries … we’ve always had labor standards, environmental standards, other social standards, social safeguards. You don’t go in and harm the people you’re trying to help.”

The Asian Development Bank board is expected to vote on the proposed safeguard in March.

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Federal Government

Anthony Fauci, leader in HIV/AIDS and COVID epidemics, confirms plan to retire

WH adviser remembered by gay community

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Anthony Fauci has confirmed plans to retire from the U.S. government by the year's end. (Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

Anthony Fauci, a leading epidemiologist who advised seven presidents and had a major role in the HIV/AIDS and COVID epidemics, has confirmed plans to retire from his role in the U.S. government.

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases and now chief medical adviser to President Biden, signaled he plans to retire in December in a statement Monday.

Fauci, however, is quoted in the New York Times as saying he’s “not retiring in the classic sense” but would devote himself to traveling, writing, and encouraging young people to enter government service.

“So long as I’m healthy, which I am, and I’m energetic, which I am, and I’m passionate, which I am, I want to do some things outside of the realm of the federal government,” Dr. Fauci was quoted as saying, reportedly adding he intends to draw on his experience in public health and public service to “hopefully inspire the younger generation.”

As noted in The New York Times, the announcement from the 81-year-old Fauci wasn’t unexpected because he had been hinting for some time he was thinking of stepping down.

Fauci, a leader in the U.S. government response to the coronavirus pandemic, was seen as a major antagonist of former President Trump’s, who was criticized for downplaying the threat of the disease — and even outright lying about its danger to the American public. In turn, Fauci drew the ire of conservatives, who blamed him for making Trump look bad and for the lockdown policies they opposed.

The gay community also remembers Fauci for the lead role he took in development of treatment for HIV/AIDS during the height of the epidemic in the 1980s. Although Fauci was once among the targets of protest groups like ACT UP, he later became close friends with now deceased activist Larry Kramer.

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Federal Government

Fauci to retire by end of first Biden term

NIAID director has served seven presidents

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Dr. Anthony Fauci with President Joe Biden in May 2022 (Photo by Adam Schultz/White House)

Dr. Anthony Fauci announced during an interview Monday that his five decades as arguably America’s best-known public health official will come to an end by or before the conclusion of President Joe Biden’s first term in office, Jan. 20, 2025. 

Biden’s chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci’s government service began with the emergence of HIS/AIDS just before he took the helm of NIAID in 1984, where he has served now under a total of seven different presidential administrations. 

Though he encountered some criticism from activist groups like ACT UP over what they perceived as his (and the government’s) anemic response to the AIDS crisis as gay men were dying in droves, the physician and scientist would later earn their admiration and respect for his career-long dedication to finding cures. 

Today, Fauci is best known for being the public face of the American government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a position where he was often caught in the political headwinds, clashing with the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans who often sought to undermine him. 

Responding to news of Fauci’s plans to retire, Equality California Managing Director of External Affairs Samuel Garrett-Pate told the Los Angeles Blade by phone Monday that “From the AIDS crisis to COVID-19 to the monkeypox outbreak we’re experiencing, Dr. Fauci has dedicated his life to improving health and wellbeing of all Americans, especially the LGBTQ+ community.” 

“What’s really notable about his leadership in times of crisis,” Garrett-Pate said, “is his willingness to acknowledge when our public health agencies have fallen short of their mission and continuously working to improve.”

Fauci, who is 81, vowed last year that attacks from Republican lawmakers would not force him into an early retirement, adding that when it’s time to step down, he expects to find a publisher for a memoir he’s been writing. 

In addition to his work during the early days of HIV/AIDS — some of which was chronicled in Fauci’s extensive interview published in 2007 by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute — a memoir would likely cover the ways in which Fauci was drawn into political battles over measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 and step up vaccination rates. 

Highlights from the decades in between AIDS and COVID-19 are worthy fodder for a memoir, too, as Fauci was battling other viruses during this time such as SARS, the Swine Flu, MERS, Ebola and Zika.

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Federal Government

Report details U.S. efforts to promote LGBTQ rights abroad

White House policy memo issued in 2021

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Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and other State Department officials help raise the Progress Pride flag over the State Department on June 25, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The State Department on Thursday released a report on the implementation of President Biden’s memo that committed the U.S. to the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

The report notes last June’s appointment of Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad and the issuance of passports with “X” gender markers that began on April 11.

Stern on Thursday told reporters during a conference call the State Department has created the Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment Initiative “that seeks to ensure democracies are inclusive of LGBTQI+ persons, representative of their communities and families and responsive to their needs and concerns.” Stern also noted roughly 60 percent of Peace Corp posts have implemented “specific LGBTQI+ equity practices within their operations.”

Stern highlighted the U.S. supported the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in a resolution in support of “democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections” the U.N. General Assembly adopted last November. Stern also noted the U.S. Agency for International Development again tracks how its foreign assistance programs promote LGBTQ rights.

Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who is the first openly lesbian American ambassador, on Wednesday told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview that she expects the U.S. government will endorse a proposed LGBTQ-specific safeguard for the ADB. Stern on Thursday noted the Department of Homeland Security has issued guidance to recognize informal same-sex marriages for the purposes of obtaining refugee or asylee status, even if they are not officially recognized by officials in countries of origin.”

The report also highlights how the Commerce, Defense, Justice, Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services have implemented the memo that Biden issued in February 2021.

“This memorandum makes clear that promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is a U.S. foreign policy priority,” said Stern. “The report outlines how U.S. government agencies engaged abroad are working to become LGBTQI+ inclusive. It shows that many individual actions across the U.S. government taken as a whole create institutional change and improves the daily lives of LGBTQI+ persons.”  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement echoed Stern.

“It remains vitally important that we address the violence and discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ persons while acknowledging the effects of the intersections of race and ethnicity, gender, disability, religion and national origin, to name a few,” said Blinken. 

“As the report demonstrates, the U.S. government advances these priorities by supporting efforts to end the criminalization of LGBTQI+ status and conduct, seeking to protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers, providing foreign assistance to protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons and advancing  non-discrimination protections, responding to human rights abuses of LGBTQI+ persons abroad, building coalitions of like-minded nations, and engaging international organizations in the fight against LGBTQI+ discrimination,” added Blinken. “Our collective efforts drive toward the goal of ending violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics. Equality and equity build stronger societies for all.”

USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Thursday said the memo “was a call to action based on a simple premise: That all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

“Over the past year, as today’s report demonstrates, USAID has made important progress toward achieving these ambitions through a commitment to LGBTQI+ inclusive development in our policies and programs that reach millions of people around the world,” said Power.

The full report can be read here.

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