Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered on Wednesday what might be her last public address before an LGBT audience as chief diplomat for the United States when she told group of LGBT Foreign Service officers their service is integral to the country.
“Creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing,” Clinton said. “And part of that is because the nature of diplomacy has changed and we should and need to keep up. Today, we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but from people from every continent and every walk of life, and, in order to do that, we need a diplomatic core that is as diverse as the world we work in.”
Additionally, Clinton said having an LGBT-inclusive State Department makes the Foreign Service corps “better advocates” for American values.
Washington Blade photo by Michael Key
“When anyone is persecuted anywhere and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted, we’re kept from fully participating in their societies,” Clinton said. “They suffer, but so do we. We are diminished because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the government of the United States.”
Clinton delivered the remarks in Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department to observe the 20th anniversary of the department’s LGBT affinity group, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, or GLIFAA.
She reminded the estimated 200 people in attendance that world in which GLIFAA was created was much different than today and the organization has worked over the course of 20 years to create a fairer workplace for LGBT Foreign Service officers.
“As we heard, in 1992, you could be fired for being gay,” Clinton said. “Just think about all of the exceptional public servant — the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts — fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what we lost because we were unable of their hard work, expertise and experience.”
Clinton also gave recognition to Tom Gallagher, whom she said joined the State Department in 1965 and in the early 1970′s became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer. He was in the audience during Clinton’s speech and rose when the secretary mentioned him.
“He served in the face of criticism and threats, but that did not stop him from serving,” Clinton said. “I want to take this moment just to recognize him, but also to put into context what this journey has meant for people for people of Tom and my generation because I don’t want any of you who are younger ever to take for granted what it took for people like Tom Gallagher to pave the way for all of you. It is not a moment for us to be nostaglic; it is a way for us to remember.”
The speech occurs almost one year after Clinton gave a high-profile speech in Geneva in favor of LGBT human rights, telling LGBT people that face human rights abuses overseas they “have an ally in the United States of America.” Clinton noted her speech from the previous year during her remarks at the State Department.
“When I gave that speech in Geneva and said we were going to make this a priority for American foreign policy, I didn’t see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for,” Clinton said.
Toby Quaranta, who’s gay and president of the D.C Young Democrats, was among those in attendance and said the speech was “an example of why she is such a popular secretary of state.”
“She wants to make advances for LGBT people not just as a way to advance the cause of human rights, but also as a way to advance American interests abroad,” Quaranta said. “It’s a moral issue with a pragmatic end. That’s her way of doing business, and that is why she has been so successful as secretary of state.”