Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian LGBT rights advocate and journalist Masha Gessen are among those who spoke at the annual Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies Pride celebration that took place at the State Department on Thursday.
“LGBT rights are human rights, and human rights are LGBT rights,” said Kerry.
Kerry during his speech highlighted a number of policy changes and other developments that have taken place since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. These include the ability of gays and lesbians to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration purposes and the recognition of marriages of foreign diplomats who are assigned to the U.S.
“That’s what it means to fight and that’s what it means to win in a battle that we all know matters enormously, not as a matter of making these things a privilege, but to make sure that they are, in fact, a right,” said Kerry.
Kerry praised GLIFAA President Robyn McCutcheon, who is the first foreign service officer to come out as transgender, for her work with the Office of Personnel Management in support of efforts to end the ban on federal employee health plans from covering gender transition-related care.
OPM last Friday announced as of next year it would no longer require federal health insurance plans to include the so-called “transgender exclusion.”
Kerry also applauded Gessen, who fled Russia last December with her wife and their three children because of the Kremlin’s ongoing LGBT rights crackdown, for “her own special perseverance and advocacy.”
“When all the repressive anti-LGBT laws in Russia threatened literally to break apart her family, she put up a fight,” said Kerry. “The government in Moscow may look at Masha as a troublemaker to contend with, but here in the United States, we know that she is a wonderful person — a mother, a journalist, an extraordinary human rights defender — and we are honored by her presence here.”
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