LGBT members of Congress question U.S. trade agreement and State Department Welcomes the Human Rights Campaign to Global Equality Fund

By junior Mayema,

The United States and The Obama administration must continue to position itself to its ideal of protecting LGBT rights at home and abroad; Trade agreements with homophobic countries is sending a terrible signal and a message that perpetrators of human rights violations against LGBT people will not be hold accountable by this government, this is not okay dear Mister President Please show your leadership on human rights of all once more and please appoint the US envoy on LGBT rights now, we’re still waiting.

Below are some of the good news that happening so far :

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/02/237632.htm

State Department Welcomes the Human Rights Campaign to Global Equality Fund

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

February 19, 2015

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The State Department today welcomes the Human Rights Campaign as the newest Partner of the Global Equality Fund. The Human Rights Campaign joins a strong and diverse partnership of like-minded governments, foundations, and corporations dedicated to advancing the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons globally.

Launched in December 2011, the Global Equality Fund supports civil society’s efforts to advance and protect the human rights of LGBT persons around the world. The Fund has provided more than $17 million in over 50 countries to support civil society organizations and human rights defenders with emergency assistance in response to threats or harassment, to build organizational capacity for human rights, advocacy, and development, and to combat negative social attitudes and societal discrimination. The U.S. Department of State with the participation of the U.S. Agency for International Development, manages the Fund.

Through this partnership, the Human Rights Campaign and the U.S. Department of State will highlight how the investment in civil society through the Fund is working to create environments of non-discrimination, and seek to engage more business leaders to increase and demonstrate their commitment to LGBT equality.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve LGBT equality. HRC works to strengthen the global equality movement by raising awareness of discrimination and persecution faced by LGBT people worldwide, supporting the efforts of LGBT organizations and advocates abroad, and advocating for an LGBT-inclusive U.S. foreign policy. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

As a Partner of the Fund, the Human Rights Campaign joins the governments of the United States, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, and the Arcus Foundation, the John D. Evans Foundation, LLH: the Norwegian LGBT Organization, the MAC AIDS Fund, Deloitte, the Royal Bank of Canada and Out Leadership. Together, these organizations are committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.

For more information about the State Department’s efforts to advance the rights of LGBT individuals, please visit: http://www.humanrights.gov/dyn/issues/lgbt.html

For reporter inquiries, please contact Chanan Weissman at Weissmanc@state.gov or 202-647-4043.

And here is another good news :

Carter Selects Fanning as First Openly Gay Pentagon Chief of Staff

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/02/18/carter-selects-fanning-as-first-openly-gay-pentagon-chief-of.html

AF under secretary Eric Fanning 600x400

New Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has chosen former acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning to become his chief of staff and the first openly gay man to hold the post.

Fanning, currently the Air Force undersecretary, was a key member of the transition team along with Army Maj. Gen. Ron Davis that guided Carter through his Senate confirmation hearings to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

As chief of staff, Fanning will have major sway over Carter’s schedule and access to his office. Davis was expected to become military adviser to Carter.

In his brief remarks after his swearing in ceremony at the White House on Tuesday, Carter noted the presence of Fanning and Davis in the small audience and thanked “Eric and Ron.”

In response to the Fanning announcement, Chad Griffin, president of the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Wednesday that few were as qualified as Fanning to serve as Carter’s chief of staff.

“As an openly gay man, his appointment is not only breaking former barriers for the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community, but it is further evidence of the tremendous progress towards fairness and equality that we continue to make within the Department of Defense.”

Fanning, an Ohio native and 1990 graduate of Dartmouth College, has favored allowing openly transgender persons to serve in the military.

Fanning was acting Air Force secretary for about six months after the resignation of Michael B. Donley. Fanning became undersecretary when Deborah James was confirmed as Air Force secretary.

Fanning, 46, who has never served in uniform, previously was a deputy undersecretary of the Navy, an associate producer at CBS News in New York City, a public relations executive, and a congressional and White House staffer in the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

Fanning is also known for a self-deprecating sense of humor. Shortly after becoming acting Air Force secretary, Fanning spoke at a gay rights event at the Pentagon. To preface his remarks, Fanning said that he wanted to assure all the Air Force personnel present that he wasn’t going order all the planes painted pink.

And here is the bad news below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/obama-trade-lgbt_n_6716810.html

Obama’s Trade Deal Rewards A Brutally Anti-Gay Dictator — And LGBT Lawmakers Are Not Pleased

Posted: 02/19/2015 7:40 pm EST Updated: 4 hours ago
OBAMA

WASHINGTON — Prominent LGBT members of Congress assailed the Obama administration on Wednesday for including Brunei and Malaysia — two nations deeply hostile to gay communities — in major trade talks.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, five co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus — Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) — posed sharp questions about why countries that promote the execution or imprisonment of gay people should be granted trade perks from the United States. Brunei recently imposed a Sharia penal system punishing gay sex with execution, and Malaysian law allows LGBT people to be caned and imprisoned for up to 20 years.

“Brunei continues to move forward with full implementation of a strict penal code mandating the stoning to death of LGBT citizens; similarly, Malaysia has not taken action to end its persecution of LGBT individuals,” the letter reads. “Despite these abuses, the Administration continues to include them in negotiations around the TPP and lists them as intended signatories to the trade agreement.”

In his State of the Union address in January, Obama said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the administration is negotiating would present an opportunity for the U.S. to isolate the economic power of China and raise labor and human rights standards abroad. But the administration has brushed off explicit objections from Congress over human rights in Brunei for more than 18 months. Last year, 129 lawmakers signed a letter to the president raising concerns about that nation’s inclusion in the TPP — a major free trade pact with 11 other Pacific nations. No progress has been made with Brunei on its Sharia penal code since.

“The Administration shares the serious concerns about the new Sharia penal code, which is in the process of being implemented. We have been working closely with the State Department in communicating the strong concerns of both the Administration and Congress to the Bruneian government,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told HuffPost in an email. “In meetings with senior Bruneian government officials, we have made clear that protecting human rights -– including the rights of LGBT individuals, women, and religious minorities -– is a core U.S. value and a foreign policy priority.”

Nevertheless, Brunei remains part of the negotiations, and USTR declined to say whether gay rights issues had been raised in TPP talks. It was unclear what pressure the State Department could bring against Brunei while USTR was simultaneously offering trade benefits under TPP.

“We are dealing with countries that are challenging in TPP,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in a January hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, emphasizing, “Brunei, where the LGBT community has legitimate human rights concerns.”

Human rights concerns over TPP are not limited to LGBT issues. Vietnam, another country included in the talks, is riddled with forced labor, child labor and other worker abuses, according to U.S. government reports.

TPP supporters contend the agreement will boost economic growth. Its detractors say they worry it will undermine key regulations, exacerbate income inequality and reward human rights abusers.
Wednesday’s letter highlighted the Obama administration’s broad commitment to global LGBT rights, quoting both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, but said its actions on TPP undermine its stated principles.

“We urge you to bring consistency to the Administration’s foreign and trade policy,” the letter reads. “The LGBT community looks to your Administration to fight for human rights across the globe and we hope you will continue this record of equality by removing Brunei and Malaysia from the TPP if they neglect to address these abuses.”

Obama is seeking so-called fast-track authority from Congress, which would strip the legislative branch of the power to amend trade agreements negotiated by the administration. Most experts believe that TPP will not be approved without the authority.

Read the full letter here.

The protection of LGBT people is at stake globally with the majority of countries holding dear to antigay discriminatory laws and violence, The United States must condemn those attacks to the strongest terms and impose sanctions to countries that continue to persecute and oppress its own LGBT people in the name of sovereignty of those country which is breaching international obligation and infringing fundamental human rights is enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights here is a piece what is happening around the world :

U.S. protection of
gay Iraqis questioned

http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=70395

A dozen years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the government is reluctant to let LGBT Americans know what it was doing to protect gay Iraqis at the height of the violence against them.

The U.S. government isn’t willing to disclose much information about what it was doing to help LGBT Iraqis during the invasion of the Middle Eastern country, according to a heavily redacted report issued five and a half years after it was requested.

The redacted documents followed alarming reports issued last year by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The November 2014 reports, titled “ When Coming Out is a Death Sentence: Persecution of LGBT Iraqis,” and “We’re Here: Iraqi LGBT People’s Accounts of Violence and Rights Abuse,” addressed the current situation for LGBT Iraqis, who experienced an uptick in violence in the second half of 2014.

The reports confirm the rash of murders of gay Iraqis at the hands of militias but debunked other claims that more than 100 gay Iraqis were sitting on death row.

The Bay Area Reporter was provided with the government reports from the United Kingdom and the U.S. The reports were obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests that were filed with both countries in June 2009 by Michael Petrelis, a gay San Francisco activist with Gays Without Borders.

Petrelis didn’t receive the heavily redacted 19-page FOIA report until early December 2014. That was five and a half years after he received the U.K.’s 51-page FOIA response that wasn’t so heavily censored.

The redacted and tardy report raised concerns for Petrelis about what the U.S. was doing in Iraq and how U.S. officials were protecting LGBTs.

“Like most Americans, I’ve been concerned about the American war in Iraq and the troubles it’s unleashed, including the torture against gay people,” said Petrelis, 55, who filed an appeal to his FOIA request to the State Department in late December.

“As gay advocates we have to be concerned that information was not released in a timely manner,” Petrelis added. “Five and a half years is not acceptable in terms of releasing this information and then what was released was redacted.”

IGLHRC Executive Director Jessica Stern. Photo: Courtesy IGLHRC

Human rights experts Becca Heller, director and co-founder of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, and Jessica Stern, executive director of IGLHRC, agreed with Petrelis, stating that the U.S.’s lack of rapid response to a FOIA request in regard to human rights issues is a concern.

Stern stated that the law provides that the U.S. should fulfill requests in a timely manner.

“Five years could not be considered a timely manner,” she said.

Stern pointed out that the U.K. was just coming to the conversation regarding foreign policy dealing with LGBT issues, and she hadn’t seen much in terms of LGBT Iraqis.

“I can’t comment on what the government of the United Kingdom has done on Iraq. I haven’t seen a lot from them from the British government, which leads me to believe that this has not been a priority concern of theirs,” Stern told the B.A.R., despite being provided the U.K. 2009 FOIA report. “But there also haven’t been British organizations consistently lobbying their government to take up this issue.

“I would say very clearly the fact that I haven’t heard of particular initiatives from the U.K. foreign office on the plight of LGBTI Iraqis does not mean that nothing has been done, but it certainly hasn’t been of the level that it has come to my attention,” Stern added.

The U.S. has a long record of what it’s done to protect LGBT Iraqis, she pointed out.

“The U.S. has actually addressed issues of LGBT Iraqis,” Stern said. “It has raised issues of LGBTI Iraqis in bilateral affairs going back seven years. It’s funded the evacuation of LGBTI Iraqis. It has supported the effort of a broad range of Iraqi organizations to address gender-based violence.”

However, she believed the U.S. and other governments could do more.

Some of her recommendations were included in the recently published report about LGBT Iraqis. Additionally, Stern suggested that the U.K. and U.S. should put pressure upon the Iraqi government to halt sweeps of radio stations that are speaking out for human rights and illegal raids by militias, as some examples.

“I think so long as people are being murdered based on their actual or perceived sexual lives or identities then it will never be enough. The government actions will never be enough, because government action will only be enough when the problem ceases to exist,” said Stern.

Revealing what was being done

The B.A.R. found all but one of the documents included in the redacted U.S. FOIA report on WikiLeaks, as well as another document that wasn’t included in the report that addressed the situation of LGBT Iraqis in Iraq. All but one of the reports was unredacted.

The documents show that there was heightened concern about LGBT Iraqis by the Ministry of Human Rights in Iraq, and governments in the U.K. and U.S. during the spring of 2009, but untangling facts proved to be a challenge.

In the reports, officials of the three governments confirmed a rash of murders of gay men were at the hands of militias. This was after reports of kidnappings of gay Iraqi men by militias who tortured them – even gluing their anuses shut and feeding them laxatives until they died – surfaced in American and Iraqi media in 2009.

It was these reports that prompted Petrelis to file a FOIA request in a quest to find out what the U.K. and U.S. were doing in Iraq, particularly what they were doing to protect LGBT Iraqis, he said.

“At the time we had many more troops there and greater influence in Iraq,” said Petrelis, who in 2009 was working with other LGBT global advocates to “have the foreign governments put pressure on the Iraqis to protect the gays.”

However, Wijdan Selim, the minister of human rights of Iraq, confirmed in the report that claims of more than 100 LGBT Iraqis sitting on death row that came from Iraq LGBT, a UK-based organization that is now defunct, weren’t valid. Additionally, evidence of claims from the same organization that individuals were convicted of homosexuality wasn’t found in an investigation, she said in a 2009 report.

Representatives of Iraq, the U.K. and the U.S. attributed a “spate of murders of homosexual men in Baghdad” early in April 2009, to militias responding to religious leaders’ calls to “eradicate homosexuality” or for families to reclaim so-called family honor.

Selim, who was identified as a Christian in another report in December 2009, raised concerns about Iraqi Security Forces and the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq and the effect it would have on the little progress made toward human rights, including LGBTs.

Some of the ISF members sided with religious leaders and militias on the gay issue, in spite of homosexuality not being illegal for adults in Iraq, she informed U.K. and U.S. officials during a meeting in April, according to the July 10, 2009 report. But the law is vague, being left open to interpretation; for example by some Iraqi religious leaders and communities who consider homosexuality a crime under Islamic (Sharia) law.

Extremist religious leaders and militias, such as the Jaysh al-Mahdi and the Badr Brigade, were already campaigning for people to turn in anyone they believed to be homosexual. Muqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the Jaysh al-Mahdi, “ordered that the ‘depravity’ of homosexuality be eradicated,” on May 29, according to a July 10, 2009 state department email.

Police were infiltrated with followers of the extremist militias.

In portions of the redacted reports, Selim pointed to the increasing rise of “Islamization of Iraqi society,” during a December 14, 2009 meeting with Jeffrey Feltman, then assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. LGBT Iraqis told Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) officials that they feel the “Islamization of Iraqi society discriminates against them,” as one of the main concerns that LGBTs cited.

Selim warned government leaders that ISF was “still responsible for abuses and often denied ministry inspectors access to their detention facilities,” according to the report. Furthermore, without the coalition forces aiding her access to institutions, such as prisons, ISF authorities will block her abilities to conduct inspections.

However, Selim expressed concern, along with other ministries of human rights, including the Kurds, that pushing the LGBT issue would increase violence against the vulnerable community. Overall, there wasn’t a desire within Iraq to raise the LGBT issue or to help LGBTs for fear of a backlash. MoHR was also overwhelmed with other pressing issues, such as sex trafficking, according to the reports.

Mohanad Lateef, a 45-year-old gay Iraqi photographer who escaped to the U.S., agreed, pointing out in an interview that, “It’s difficult to protect a minority when you are not protecting the majority.”

Selim informed Feltman that “her ministry is working to ensure the rights of all Iraqis,” but she warned, “raising the specific issue of LGBT murders would only make this community a bigger target for extremists,” during the December 14, 2009 meeting, according to the report.

There was some progress on human rights issues. The education system was teaching human rights courses at multiple levels, but at the same time Islamic religious education also had become a part of Iraq’s public education system, Selim pointed out.

Selim wasn’t convinced by Feltman’s reassurance that she wouldn’t lose support when the coalition forces withdrew. Lack of support by the U.K. and U.S. was already occurring. She expressed frustration with lack of support from the two countries and that her warnings weren’t being heeded by the government of Iraq.

The WikiLeaks reports revealed that the U.S. was concerned about what was happening in Iraq, especially with the LGBT community. However, officials concealed that concern and the actions taken at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq to get LGBTs out of the country in April and May 2009.

Neither LGB members of Congress nor the State Department responded to multiple requests for comment.

Disappointment and caution

“I’m disappointed that the U.S. State Department has not released more comprehensive information about what they were doing at the time to protect [LGBT] Iraqis,” said Petrelis, critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, who were in their first year of office at the time.

“You don’t get any sense of what our government was doing to protect the gays at the time,” Petrelis said, after reading the unredacted WikiLeaks reports.

The blacked out information wasn’t what he considered critical to national security.

“We don’t have a sense that they were putting the full force of the U.S. government behind protecting the gays,” he said.

Human rights experts and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres wouldn’t comment on the U.K. and U.S. policies in Iraq then or now, but they acknowledged their concerns for LGBT Iraqis. The UNHCR added its willingness to help LGBT Iraqis leave the country, if necessary.

However, the U.K. FOIA report shows that the country was working with human rights and global LGBT rights groups, including the LGBT Iraqi group, to grasp the alleged human rights violations against LGBT Iraqis and how to best handle it. The U.K. report also showed that the Dutch government also expressed concern about the homophobic murders of Iraqi LGBTs and was working with the U.K. to attempt to solve the issue. The U.K. report showed that the country was involved in the conversation in 2009.

“There is still every reason for human rights advocates and gay activists to say we want gay people protected in Iraq,” argued Petrelis.

Petrelis believes then and now that there is “every reason for American gays to be concerned about our State Department and what it did or did not do in 2009.” In his mind, an informed LGBT community and allies can help the government help protect LGBT Iraqis.

Next week, LGBT Iraqis who are now in the U.S. discuss their homeland.

To read the FOIA reports, visit https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1B-q9WCAYaNNmU5MjBmZDEtYjdjZC00NDAxLTkwYTgtNDQ4MGEzNWZlNzVl/edit?ddrp=1&hl=en# andhttps://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1B-q9WCAYaNNzdlZDExYjQtOTU5Zi00N2ZjLWI1NTUtNWNiYWViYjIyYmYw/edit?ddrp=1&hl=en# for U.K.; visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1B-q9WCAYaNYnlvUjVwQ0dxMjg/view?usp=sharing for U.S.

To sign the petition urging congress to take action in support of LGBT Iraqis, visit http://iglhrc.org/action/iraq-lgbt-congress.

 

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