Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • Moving Forward with USAID's LGBT Vision for Action

    Ed. note: This blog is cross posted on the USAID Blog. See the original post here.

    Rainbow Pride Rally in Kolkata

    India: A gay rights activist holds a rainbow flag during a Rainbow Pride rally in Kolkata on July 15, 2012. More than 500 people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and supporters participated in the annual event to show solidarity and to create awareness about their basic rights. June 15, 2014. (by Dibyangshu Sarkar)

    With June’s Pride month celebrations behind us, I reflect on the reasons I celebrated.

    Reverberations continue from President Obama’s ground-breaking Memorandum of December 2011, which outlined the U.S. Government’s commitment to the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) folks around the world. USAID continues to take a lead among foreign affairs agencies in fulfilling the tenets of the Presidential Memorandum, recently issuing its own document: USAID LGBT Vision for Action.

    USAID’s vision is a world in which the basic and universal human rights of LGBT persons are respected and they are able to live with dignity, free from discrimination, persecution and violence. In this world, LGBT persons are able to participate fully in democratic decision-making in their households, communities and countries; have equal access to sustainable livelihoods, economic assets and resources; are not barred from accessing the basic education, health and other services that are enjoyed by their fellow citizens and that are essential for personal well-being and growth.

    In Colombia, for example, USAID has worked hard to build the skills of LGBT leaders so they can participate fully and effectively in democratic processes. We are supporting a project designed to extend democratic governance and respect for human rights to all Colombians, as well as mainstream LGBT and other vulnerable populations’ rights (e.g. through improving relations with law enforcement and pursuing legal cases to enforce human rights). Our Colombian civil society partners are developing advocacy and policy strategies, improving relations with law enforcement, pursuing legal cases to enforce human rights abuses, and raising awareness to institutionalize a culture of respect for LGBT rights.

    Demonstrator Holding Rainbow Flag in Bratislava

    Slovakia: A demonstrator holds a rainbow flag in Bratislava on June 9, 2012, during the Rainbow Pride Parade, a march for the human rights of non-heterosexual people and the celebration of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) pride in Slovakia. June 9, 2014. (by Samuel Kubani)

    The first Pride celebration I attended, decades ago, was small, apologetic and attended by only a furtive few. My calendar this past June couldn’t possibly have accommodated all the events hosted by the White House and federal agencies across Washington, D.C., let alone the numerous events hosted by USAID missions across the more than 80 countries in which we work. Near the end of June, I co-moderated a session at the first ever White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights.

    When I first engaged as an American in the struggle for the human rights of LGBT folks around the world, it was often difficult to identify local LGBT representatives with whom to interface. Today they have bravely and proudly organized in most countries. They guide us, and trust us to join forces with them, shoulder to shoulder, as they live and breathe and move their cultures and countries toward realization of the Martin Luther King Jr. teaching: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

    Participant in LGBT Flashmob in Vietnam

    Vietnam: A participant dances during a flashmob organised by the local LGBT community in Hanoi on September 23, 2012. Two first ever flashmobs by LGBT communities were held at the same time in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s two largest cities. September 23, 2013. (by Dinh Nam)

    Soon after arriving at USAID, four months ago, I travelled to Uganda to meet with some of these brave, proud individuals. I came away not only bowed by the enormity of their challenges and the urgency and critical importance of supporting them, but also – by virtue, above all, of their brilliance and tenacity – convinced of the inevitability of their success.

    While many of us celebrated this June openly and joyously, others of us were forced to do so behind closed doors, shielding ourselves from hostile environments. In some 80 countries around the world, same-gender consensual relations are criminalized; in a half dozen countries, same-gender consensual relations are punishable by death. In countries like Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, this past year saw backsliding of enormous and tragic proportions.

    To say that there is a lot of work ahead is to state the obvious. At the same time, more than ever before in my lifetime, I understood and joined in the celebrations of Pride month 2014.  I look forward to Pride month 2015, and celebrating the further achievements of our global community.

    Todd Larson is the Senior Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Coordinator at USAID.

  • Justice and Identity

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's blog. See the original post here.

    As we celebrate Pride Month and approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the Labor Department is reaffirming its commitment to equal opportunity for all. That’s why we are updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals.

    These changes reflect current law. In Macy v. Holder, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that discrimination because a person is transgender is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex. While the department has long protected employees from sex-based discrimination, its guidance to workers and employers will explicitly clarify that this includes workers who identify as transgender. The department will continue to examine its programs to identify additional opportunities to extend the law’s full protection against discrimination to transgender workers.

    Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.

    Tom Perez is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.

  • "Same Struggle, Different Difference" - Opportunities for Togetherness

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor blog. See the original post here.

    ODEP Chief of Staff Dylan Orr Speaking at the Labor Department's Institute on HIV/AIDS and Employment

    ODEP Chief of Staff Dylan Orr speaks at the Labor Department's Institute on HIV/AIDS and Employment.

    Each June, the LGBTQ+ community and allies commemorate Pride Month, promoting self-affirmation, dignity, visibility, inclusion and diversity within the community. In July, the disability community and allies commemorate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, promoting the same principles in response to a similar history of exclusion and discrimination.

    These periods of commemoration are clearly connected by a matter of days on the calendar, but as communities we don’t always make the connections around our common experiences and goals. I believe the disability and LGBTQ+ communities can find strength in working together. In fact, it is these commonalities and the opportunities they present that led me to serve as chief of staff in the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

    From my earliest thoughts, I knew I was different. I knew because the outside world told me so. When my mom was pregnant with me she thought she was carrying a boy and chose the name Dallas. When I was born with the external indications that I was a girl, she instead named me Lily − as I like to joke, “the most effeminate name in the book.”

    As I grew I didn’t feel like a girl or what that seemed to represent. I also thought there was something wrong with me. I felt shame about what I decided would be my little (or big) secret for the rest of my life. I was teased on the playground and questioned by adults as to “what I was,” and essentially told that I did not look or act the way I was “meant” to. And, I felt camaraderie with individuals with disabilities who, like me, were excluded or made fun of for how they looked or acted. So I stuck up for them and befriended them.

    It would not be for many years that I would first hear the word transgender and eventually embrace that identity, and find love, community, support and pride. Along the way, I have come to recognize the multiple intersections within our communities – from being labeled by society as “other” or somehow different from what is “normal” mentally or physically, to negotiating disclosure, to facing barriers and disparities in critical areas of life like public accommodations, housing, education, employment, the legal system and medical care. These intersections have influenced me along my academic and professional path, and the disability community has become my community.

    This week I was honored to participate in the Forum on LGBT and Disability Issues at the White House, and proud to share how ODEP is building bridges between the disability community and other marginalized populations.

    One of the initiatives we are working on is called Add Us In, designed to identify and develop strategies to increase employment within the small businesses for individuals with disabilities, with an emphasis on ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, women and veterans. ODEP is also working to support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy by improving employment and economic opportunities for people living with HIV, a covered disability under the ADA, which disproportionately impacts the gay, transgender, African American and Latino communities.

    Through my work, I am constantly reminded that, although much remains to be done, significant progress has occurred in just the last generation, for both the LGBTQ+ and the disability communities. Going forward, we must draw strength from each other’s lessons − and remind ourselves that when one person or group is marginalized or discriminated against, we all are.

    I hope to one day live in a world that truly celebrates the wide variation of the human form, condition and experience. To get there, we all have a part to play. Change does not arise from pity, shame, exclusion or low expectations. It arises from empowerment, celebration of difference, and a willingness to take risks as individuals and communities − to take pride in who we are.

    Dylan Orr is chief of staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

  • Further U.S. Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda

    Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama's groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad.  

    We have seen extraordinary advances for LGBT rights in the United States and in many countries around the world. But some governments have challenged this progress, with results that not only endanger local LGBT communities, but also pose a setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice, and equal rights.   

    The Government of Uganda's enactment of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.

    After thorough consideration, the U.S. government is taking a number of actions to underscore the critical importance we place on human rights and fighting against discrimination, protecting vulnerable populations, respecting freedom of expression and association, and advancing inclusive governance.

  • June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT Communities

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture blog. See the original post here.

    Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell

    Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

    June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.

    June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.” With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future.

    USDA plays a key role in ensuring low- to moderate-income rural residents have access to affordable home loans. Last year alone, USDA Rural Development provided $23.4 billion for the purposes of purchasing, building, and restoring homes in rural communities. These programs make it possible for low-income rural families to achieve the dream of homeownership. Ensuring that programs like these are accessible to the LGBT community is especially important as a recent study by the Williams Institute finds that LGBT adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-LGBT adults to be living in poverty.

  • Watch Live: Harvey Milk Stamp Unveiling Ceremony

    Harvey Milk Stamp 2014

    (by United States Postal Service)

    This Thursday, May 22nd, the White House Office of Public Engagement, the United States Postal Service and the Harvey Milk Foundation will host a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp at the White House.

    The event will feature remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative John Lewis, Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman, and other distinguished guests including the Co-Founders of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk and Anne Kronenberg.

    Watch live starting at 3:00 p.m. EST at whitehouse.gov/live.  If you’re following on social media, the hashtag is #HarveyMilkStamp.

    Harvey Milk was a visionary leader who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk’s achievements gave hope and confidence to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the United States and elsewhere at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination. Milk believed that government should represent all citizens, ensuring equality and providing needed services.

    Tragically, his political career was cut short less than a year after he took office in California when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978.

    In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And in 2013, the White House Office of Public Engagement honored ten openly LGBT elected and appointed officials as “Harvey Milk Champions of Change.”                          

    For more information on the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp, please visit: http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2014/pr14_026.htm

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Enhancing Health Care Protections for LGBT Individuals

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from HHS.gov

    Throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. When we are sick or injured, we depend on health care professionals to treat us with competence, compassion, and the understanding that we are protected against mistreatment.

    Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals harms the health and well-being of LGBT individuals and their families in many ways. Like everyone else, LGBT individuals should receive regular health care when and where they need it, without fear of disclosing their sexual history and gender identity to their health care providers, and with the freedom to involve their partners in their care. But they often cannot do so, or believe they cannot do so, based on the threat of discrimination.

    HHS has in place a matrix of powerful protections to ensure that LGBT individuals have equal access to health care and freedom from discrimination:

    • The Affordable Care Act prevents health insurance companies from raising rates or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health concernsor because they happen to be LGBT.
    • Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime limit on coverage. This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone else who has a chronic condition.
    • The landmark civil rights provision, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sex, which includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity. While implementing regulations are being drafted, HHS is accepting complaints and enforcing the law.
    • Insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including against same-sex spouses with respect to an offer of spousal coverage.

    All of this is good news for the LGBT community, particularly when we consider that prior to the new coverage options provided under the health care law, one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country did not have health insurance. You don’t have to be an expert to figure out what we need to do to get the word out. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication. Information is a powerful tool to equip individuals, friends, family, and community leaders with knowledge to ensure LGBT people have access to quality, affordable health care and freedom from discrimination.

    We hope you will continue to join us in this important work.

    Matthew Heinz is the Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Juliet K. Choi is the Chief of Staff & Senior Advisor, Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Dr. Deborah Birx Sworn In as New U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from AIDS.gov
     
    Dr. Deborah Birx was sworn in today as the new Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator to lead all U.S. Government international HIV/AIDS efforts. Ambassador Birx now oversees implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history, as well as all U.S. Government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
     
    “I am honored and humbled to lead PEPFAR into a brand new chapter to achieve an AIDS-free generation through shared responsibility, accountability, and impact.” said Ambassador Birx.
     
    Ambassador Birx is a renowned medical expert in the field of HIV/AIDS. For over three decades, her career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. Since 2005, she has served as Director of the Division of Global HIV/AIDS at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leading PEPFAR implementation.
     
    Prior to the CDC, Ambassador Birx, a proud Army veteran, having risen to the rank of Colonel in the US Army, served at the Department of Defense as Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. In that role, she led development of the Thai vaccine trial which became the first clinical HIV/AIDS research study to show the potential that a vaccine could protect against HIV. She also served as an Assistant Chief of the Hospital Immunology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
     
    PEPFAR now directly supports 6.7 million people globally on life-saving antiretroviral treatment. In Fiscal Year 2013, PEPFAR also supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 57.7 million people, providing a critical entry point to prevention, treatment, and care. Of those receiving PEPFAR-supported HIV testing and counseling, more than 12.8 million were pregnant women. For the 780,000 of these women who tested positive for HIV, PEPFAR provided antiretroviral medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Due to PEPFAR support, 95 percent of these babies were born HIV-free (including 240,000 that would otherwise have been infected).