When I arrived in Prague over three years ago, I knew that as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and the son of a Czechoslovak Holocaust survivor, I had a personal and a professional responsibility to fight for tolerance for all people.
I had that in mind when our Embassy recently observed the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Since 2004, this has been recognized as a day in which we highlight both the progress made, and the work that remains, to end discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people around the world. On this day in 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. We at the Embassy join the vast majority of Americans and Czechs in proudly supporting the right of every person, regardless of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, to live an open and meaningful life. This year the rainbow flag, a symbol of diversity and inclusiveness for the LGBT community, flew above our Embassy, just below the American flag, to show our support for the end of discrimination everywhere.
I am proud of the work the Embassy has done to support LGBT rights during my three and a half years in the Czech Republic. Every year, I walk in the Prague Pride parade to show how seriously I take the rights of individuals to live their lives as they choose. Last year, the Embassy brought an openly gay U.S. Congressman to Prague, leading a U.S. LGBT delegation, and organized a roundtable about “Coming Out and Politics” during Pride Week. You may have seen our Glorietta last year, lit up in rainbow colors that could be seen all over Prague. We continue to support the Prague Pride parade through our Small Grants program, and will participate in this year’s Prague Pride. I also support the annual film festival in Prague and Brno which has been bringing LGBT themes and issues to the forefront in the Czech Republic for 15 years.
A lot has changed since the 2013 IDAHO. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that forbade the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions, was unconstitutional. This meant that for the first time, same-sex couples had the same access to the federal benefits and programs that heterosexual married couples had enjoyed for decades. It also meant that we could start issuing immigrant visas to the same-sex partners of American citizens and Green Card Holders living in the United States; no longer will lesbian and gay couples be separated by these obstacles.
Since I came to Prague, I have seen progress in both the U.S. and the Czech Republic. The Prague Pride parade has gone from an initial 2011 gathering met with opposition and controversy to a week-long celebration of the LGBT community, visited by tens of thousands and fast becoming the largest pride parade in Central Europe.
Every year, IDAHO reminds us all to take stock of where we are in the fight for LGBT equality. By flying the rainbow flag, our Embassy stressed how important this ideal is, the progress that has been made–and all that remains to be done.
- Source: U.S. Embassy in Prague