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Remarks from Ambassador Rice at Global Equality Reception on LGBT Rights

New York, N.Y.



Thank you very much. I want to thank the Council for Global Equality for your invaluable work to promote human rights and end violence and discrimination against LGBT communities worldwide. I also want to thank our gracious hosts, Mitch Draizin and Fritz Brugere-Trelat, and all who contributed to this wonderful event.

Congratulations to Jessica Stern on her promotion to Executive Director of IGLHRC. We are grateful for the work you do and pleased to see you making the most out of your new ECOSOC status at the UN. And, finally, thanks to my friend and colleague, Michael Guest, for that generous introduction and for presenting me with this award.

Friends, I am truly honored to receive this recognition, because LGBT rights has been one of my personal passions throughout my tenure at the United Nations and long before. You see, for me the fight for equal rights is fundamental. It defines who I am, how I was raised, where I come from, and where I am determined to go. I will not rest until all of us, each and every one, has the same rights and possibilities as any other. That principle is what made us a nation and its implementation, progressively but still not sufficiently, is at the core of our work to perfect our nation. Yes, we have made real progress, but our journey is far from over. Yet, the progress we’ve achieved would not have been possible without many people – first and foremost, human rights defenders and advocates like yourselves. LGBT individuals around the world have sacrificed so much – including in some cases their lives – to seek and obtain their basic human rights.

But, progress also required partnership between advocates and committed leaders. And we know that without President Obama’s visionary leadership and personal commitment to advancing LGBT rights, we would be nowhere near where we are today. It was the President who signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, giving explicit protection to LGBT individuals for the first time and providing law enforcement officials the tools to respond to gay-bashing and related violent acts. In 2010, President Obama extended federal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of U.S. government employees to the fullest extent of the law. Secretary Clinton extended benefits for overseas State Department employees. And these steps have become a model for similar changes for LGBT Americans working for the UN Secretariat. And through the Global Equality Fund, the State Department is increasing its foreign assistance to LGBT civil society organizations worldwide and pursuing partnerships with foreign governments, foundations, corporations and individuals.

Just over a year ago, President Obama finally and formally repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ so gay and lesbian Americans no longer need to hide whom they love in order to serve the country they love. And, there’s no doubt that we are a safer, stronger country for it.

From Day One, the President has insisted that our policies at the UN should reflect our policies at home. Among the very first decisions his Administration made at the UN was to join the General Assembly’s Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which condemns violence, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The U.S. also joined the LGBT UN Core Groups in Geneva and in New York to work with a diverse group of countries to advance LGBT rights across the UN system.

In 2010, when a reference to the killing of individuals based on their sexual orientation was stripped out of a resolution on extrajudicial killings, I declared, on Human Rights Day, that the U.S. would work to ensure that the sexual orientation provision was re-inserted by the General Assembly. Two weeks later, with vigorous lobbying, we got that important language back in the resolution.

We have fought hard to make sure that LGBT voices are heard at the UN. In 2010, we succeeded in getting the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission accredited at the UN — the first time a U.S.-based LGBT NGO received such status. A year later, we helped the International Lesbian and Gay Association gain accreditation, sending a clear message that the doors of the United Nations are now open to LGBT groups.

Last year, the Human Rights Council in Geneva passed the first UN resolution focused solely on LGBT persons – a historic action highlighting violence and human rights abuses faced by LGBT persons worldwide. This paved the way for the first ever UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT people.

These are some of my proudest moments at the UN.

Together, we’ve made a bit of history. The UN is far different today than it was four years ago. With President Obama’s support and leadership, we have advanced LGBT rights beyond where many of us thought possible. But we can’t become complacent. There’s a long way to go before LGBT individuals are treated fairly around the world and in the U.S. So, we will continue the march toward full rights for LGBT persons at the UN, just as we are at home. And we won’t rest until true equality becomes reality.

Thank you again for this great honor, and thank you for your unwavering commitment to this vital cause.

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