The nomination of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as secretary of state has excited advocates on global LGBT issues.
On Friday, President Obama formally announced he would nominate Kerry to serve as secretary of state. Noting Kerry’s service as a Vietnam veteran and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Obama said, “In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role.”
“Over these many years, John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world,” Obama said. “He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training. He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans. I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.”
But Kerry is also receiving praise for his work on LGBT issues as a U.S. senator. During his tenure as a senator, Kerry has been a supporter of LGBT issues and earned perfect rating of “100″ on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent congressional scorecard.
In the previous Congress, Kerry voted for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and hate crimes protection legislation. That support goes back to 1996, when Kerry was among 14 senators to cast a vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. He’s also been a key voice in encouraging the Obama administration to take additional action to protect bi-national same-sex couples and ending the ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
In 2004, Kerry’s LGBT support wasn’t as strong on the issue of marriage as he pursued his run as the Democratic presidential nominee. As President George W. Bush campaigned on the Federal Marriage Amendment, Kerry would uncomfortably respond that he believes marriage is one man, one woman, but didn’t cast a vote when the FMA came up for a vote that year. He also came out in support of the state constitutional amendments in Missouri and Massachusetts banning same-sex marriage.
That changed after his presidential bid as the nation became more accepting of marriage equality. Kerry voted against the amendment in 2006 and has since come out for same-sex marriage. Just this year, he called for the inclusion of marriage-equality plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, commended Obama’s decision to nominate Kerry in statement while recognizing the senator’s previous work on LGBT issues.
“Sen. Kerry has been a trailblazer in the fight for LGBT equality, both domestically and internationally,” Griffin said. “His leadership in repealing the HIV travel ban, as well as his steadfast support for employment non-discrimination protections and addressing the needs LGBT homeless youth demonstrate his dedication to equality and to the rights of LGBT people worldwide.”
Kerry is nominated for the role as secretary of state at a time when LGBT human rights abuses overseas has received heightened attention. Efforts in Uganda to pass an anti-gay bill that would institute a penalty of life imprisonment — and perhaps even death — have worried LGBT advocates across the globe. In Russia, the lower chamber of parliament is set to consider legislation that would impose fines on the spread of pro-LGBT information to minors.
And just last week in Cameroon, an appeals court upheld a three-year jail sentence against Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, a man found guilty of homosexual conduct after he sent a text message to another man saying, “I’m very much in love with you.”