We’re… making equality the centerpiece of our diplomacy around the world.  We believe LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.  In February, I signed a presidential memorandum establishing that it’s the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

– President Joe Biden

Today, the U.S. Government released a first of its kind progress report on implementation of President Biden’s Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World.  The progress demonstrates the U.S. commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ people around the world through our diplomacy and foreign assistance. 

Federal agencies are:   

Combating Criminalization of LGBTQI+ Status or Conduct Abroad:  The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), together with U.S. embassies and USAID missions, are taking innovative and bold steps to leverage diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance to promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ people, including through elevating concerns about criminalization of LGBTQI+ status or conduct with local officials, in collaboration with like-minded partners.  U.S. embassies and USAID missions also continue to welcome decisions of governments that decriminalize LGBTQI+ status or conduct.  As documented in the report, the scope and breadth of U.S.  engagement in this critical area continues to increase and strengthen.     

Protecting Vulnerable LGBTQI+ Refugees and Asylum Seekers:  In December 2021, the Department of State announced a package of new pledges to support LGBTQI+ refugees, including enhanced training for the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  The Department of State is also working to increase resettlement for LGBTQI+ persons and members of other vulnerable groups through new and expanded referral programs with NGOs and other organizations to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.  U.S. embassies also continue to support LGBTQI+ refugee needs through highlighting gaps in services and supporting civil society partners.  In February, the Department of Homeland Security issued revised 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 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing resources for LGBTQI+ refugees and their allies, including intensive case management for refugees who are vulnerable to discrimination.

Ensuring Foreign Assistance Protects Human Rights and Advances Non-discrimination:  In FY2021, the Department of State increased its support to the Global Equality Fund to $10 million annually.  The Fund now supports programs in over 100 countries in all global regions.  The Department of Health and Human (HHS) Services also supported new initiatives to increase access to health services for LGBTQI+ persons, including a new health and resource center for transgender persons in India.  USAID released new guidance outlining how to integrate the needs of LGBTQI+ persons into food security and education-related development programming.  To advance non-discrimination in foreign assistance, the Department of Labor added new terms, definitions, and requirements related to advancing LGBTQI+ human rights in its guidance for its overseas grant solicitations and contracts, and HHS developed a similar equity appendix for the annual update to the Notice of Funding Award Guidance.  The Department of State’s U.S. Fulbright Student and Teacher Programs also updated its applications to include non-binary gender options for the first time.  And the Peace Corps undertook steps to recruit more diverse applicants, including by holding a panel on “Translating Transgender Identity Abroad” to specifically recruit transgender applicants.  To coordinate these efforts and facilitate resource and experience sharing, USAID convenes a thirteen-agency working group to discuss policy, programming, and inclusive data priorities.

Taking Swift and Meaningful Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBTQI+ Persons Abroad:  The Department of State’s Global Equality Fund provides emergency funding to LGBTQI+ activists through the Dignity for All program to respond to active human rights violations and crises globally.  USAID programs build in flexibility and support for rapid response programming in the countries where they operate.  And across the globe, U.S. diplomats and U.S. development professionals are at the forefront of highlighting LGBTQI+ human rights attacks and abuses.  For example, in Poland, U.S. Embassy Warsaw supported “Words Matter,” a video featuring members of the Polish LGBTQI+ community reading and reacting to homophobic comments posted in response to the Embassy’s social media campaign for Pride Month.  The “Words Matter” video reached over 12 million Poles and was widely covered by both Polish and international media.  In Guatemala, following murders of Guatemalan leaders in the transgender community in June 2021, U.S. Embassy Guatemala City issued a statement condemning the murders and urging full investigations. 

Building International Coalitions:  At the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in November, the U.S.-led resolution on democracy and elections included for the first time a call for states to eliminate discrimination in the right to participate in public affairs based on “sexual orientation and gender identity.”  The U.S. Mission to the United Nations led the lobbying campaign to include this important new language.  The U.S. also advanced LGBTQI+ human rights together with like-minded partners in the Organizing for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of American States, and in the Equal Rights Coalition, which recently released statements with U.S. support focused on protection of LGBTQI+ persons in Ukraine, and on democracy and LGBTQI+ human rights

Rescinding Inconsistent Polices:  This Administration continues to update polices that are inconsistent with the President’s Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World.  USAID, for example, reinstated a reporting mechanism to track overall foreign assistance which advances LGBTQI+ human rights and inclusive development.  In collaboration with HHS, the Department of State withdrew from the “Geneva Consensus Declaration,” and requested its removal from the UN document system in February 2021.  The Geneva Consensus Declaration opposes abortion and related reproductive health and rights and is widely viewed as undermining LGBTQI+ human rights. 

Advancing Inclusive Democracy:  During the Summit for Democracy, the U.S.  supported a statement from the Equal Rights Coalition on Democracy and LGBTQI+ rights which affirms that promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is essential for democratic renewal.  As part of the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, the State Department also committed up to $5 million to launch the Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment (GLIDE) Fund, a new program under the Global Equality Fund that will facilitate the participation and leadership of LGBTQI+ community members in democratic institutions.  Also, during the Summit for Democracy, USAID committed to launch a new Global Development Alliance to support LGBTQI-led civil society organizations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, engage in democratic processes, and build networks of allies.  USAID intends to commit $5M USD over five-years to this program involving substantial capacity building opportunities and direct grantmaking to LGBTQI+ and transgender-led organizations around the world.

Reducing Bias-Motivated Violence:  Agencies continue to take steps to reduce bias motivated violence and hate crime targeting LGBTQI+ persons.  For example, the Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of State, has Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) programs in Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia which advance LGBTQI+ human rights and assist foreign counterparts with managing cases, including of including LGBTQI+ individuals.  Additionally, the RLA program in the Baltics assists investigators, prosecutors, and judges with investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating hate crimes, including crimes motivated by a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation.  To strengthen knowledge on patterns of violence, discrimination, and appropriate responses, in September 2021, the Department of State launched a new partnership with the Library of Congress to evaluate existing academic research for linkages between bias, discrimination, and violence, including against LGBTQI+ persons.  The goal is to better understand which criminal justice interventions can prevent escalations in violence.  An inter-agency review committee will review the research findings and provide recommendations for future actions.

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