LGBT Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy

“Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal…. By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”

-President Obama, December 2011. Presidential Memorandum -- International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

Over the last decade the United States has seen significant developments in the rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered persons (LGBT), including the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v Hodges which legalized gay marriage nationwide. While activists continue their work on domestic concerns regarding LGBT rights, there has been increasing pressure on the U.S. foreign policy establishment to look beyond its shores and engage on this issue globally as well. In 2011 the White House Released a Presidential Memorandum instructing the head of executive agencies and departments to designate LGBT rights as a key component of their policy and programmatic strategies.   

Less than 25 years ago homosexuality was grounds for ineligibility within the U.S. Foreign Service, and now in 2015 the United States has six openly gay Ambassadors and this past May the White House appointed its first Special Envoy on LGBT rights. In the State Department’s 2015 strategic outline (The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review), for the first time the Secretary of State designated the promotion of LGBT rights as a key foreign policy objective for the State Department and USAID.   

During the current administration the State Department has engaged globally on LGBT rights through multiple avenues. The U.S. has supported LGBT resolutions within the UN Human Rights Council. It has formed multilateral partnerships to develop the Global Equality Fund in order to fund LGBT programs throughout the world. It includes LGBT discrimination and homophobic violence as a section within its annual human rights report, and has raised those concerns in bilateral talks and has threatened sanctions against those who facilitate abuses against their LGBT populations. Various Embassies’ public diplomacy sections promote the Department’s messaging on LGBT rights to domestic audiences worldwide.

Still, questions still linger in regards to the U.S.’s engagement on the issue. Is U.S. foreign policy taking this strategic goal seriously in its bilateral relations with friendly countries hostile to their own LGBT community? Does western promotion of LGBT rights lead to a backlash that is used to justify increased discrimination against the community in anti-western states? Will possible future changes in administrations mean a possible retreat from this issue on the international stage? Some have even questioned whether or not LGBT rights should play a special role with the U.S.’s human rights agenda.

Please join YPFP, in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, for a panel discussion on the current and future state of LGBT rights in U.S. Foreign Policy where our esteemed panelists will be discussing these questions and many more. There will be a reception following the event.


Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, Randy Berry

Randy W. Berry is the U.S. State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons. He arrived in his new post on April 13, 2015. Prior to serving as the Special Envoy, he served as the United States Consul General in Amsterdam. He was United States Consul General in Auckland, New Zealand from 2009 to 2012, and prior to that, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 to 2009. Mr. Berry’s career with the State Department has also taken him to postings in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda (twice), and South Africa, as well as Washington DC. Mr. Berry holds a State Department Superior Honor Award, and is a nine-time Meritorious Honor Award recipient. He speaks Spanish and Arabic. Mr. Berry was raised on a family cattle ranch in rural Custer County, Colorado. He is a graduate of Bethany College of Lindsborg, Kansas, and was a Rotary Scholar at the University of Adelaide.


 Council Chair For The Council for Global Equality, Mark Bromley

 Mark Bromley helped launch the Council for Global Equality to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on international LGBT human rights concerns. Mr. Bromley previously worked for more than eleven years at Global Rights, where he coordinated donor relations and helped open field offices. In 2005, he launched an organization-wide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Initiative. Mr. Bromley has also regularly monitored developments within the U.N. human rights system. From 2001-2002, Mr. Bromley served as a Foreign Policy Fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. During that period, he staffed Senator Feingold's work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Mr. Bromley holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and a BSFS from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has published on human rights and international law issues, and has served as an adjunct professor for the human rights clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law and at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center. He lives in Washington with his husband, David Salie, and their children, Tallulah and Justice.


 Deputy Director of Human Rights Campaign Global, Jean Freedburg

Jean Freedberg is Deputy Director of HRC Global where she manages the research and partnerships portfolio. Prior to joining HRC, Jean was the director of research and communications at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 2006 to 2014. Before joining the Museum, she spent eight years with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) an international nonpartisan organization that helps people around the world strengthen their country's democratic institutions. She has served as Communications Director for Amnesty International USA, and the Sierra Club, and ran her own strategic communications consultancy in San Francisco. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Jean holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley.


September 24, 2015 at 6:30pm - 8pm
Human Rights Campaign
1640 Rhode Island Ave NW
Washington , DC 20036
United States
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Will Follmer ·

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