Hillary Clinton Celebrates State Department’s LGBT Employees: VIDEO



Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
At the 20th Anniversary of GLIFAA
November 28, 2012
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, D.C.
SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you all, very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, all.  Thank you.
Yeah, that’s good.  (Laughter.)  Wow.  Well, welcome to the Ben Franklin Room.  (Laughter.)  And congratulations on your 20th anniversary.  I am so pleased to be here and to have this chance to join this celebration.  Ken, thank you for your kind words and your efforts here to make this day possible.  I am extremely pleased that Cheryl Mills, my friend as well as Chief of Staff and Counselor is here, so that those of you who may not have met her or even seen her, given how shy and retiring she is – (laughter) – can express your appreciation to her for her tireless efforts.
I’m delighted that Deputy Secretary Tom Nides is here.  Tom, who some of you know, who you’ve had a chance to work with him, has been just an extraordinary deputy.  Also let me recognize USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg.  He’s been an unyielding advocate for the LGBT community at USAID.  We also have a number of ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission, both past and present, some of whom have literally traveled from the other side of the world to be here.  David, I’m talking about you.  And we have Michael Guest with us, our country’s first out ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate and someone who’s remained an outspoken champion for LGBT rights, despite having to endure countless attacks and threats.  Michael, why don’t you stand up so that you can be recognized?  (Applause.)
Also let me thank the GLIFAA board and members.  I just had a chance to meet the board and former presidents.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with so many former presidents.  (Laughter.)  The last count was maybe five.  (Laughter.)  But it’s really due to their leadership over 20 years that GLIFAA has reached this milestone, and it will be up to all of you and those who come after you to keep the work going for the next 20 and the 20 after that.
Now, it wasn’t really that long ago since this organization was created, but in many ways it was a completely different world.  As we heard, in 1992 you could be fired for being gay.  Just think about all of the exceptional public servants, the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation.  Think of what our country lost because we were unable to take advantage of their hard work, expertise, and experience.  And the policy forced people to make terrible choices, to hide who they were from friends and colleagues, to lie or mislead, to give up their dreams of serving their country altogether.
That began to change, in part because of the brave employees here at State, who decided that it was time for the bigotry, the ignorance, the lying, and discrimination to end.  The LGBT community deserve the same chance as anyone else to serve.  And indeed, as we all know, many had for many years, just without acknowledgment of who they were.  So enough was enough, and that’s how GLIFAA was formed.  And thank goodness it was.
We’ve come a long way since then, and we have seen milestones along that journey over the last 20 years.  I remember that I think on my husband’s first day in office back in ’93, he announced that gays and lesbians working in the federal government would receive equal treatment under the Civil Service Reform Act.  Two years later, Secretary Warren Christopher made clear those rules would be enforced within the halls of the State Department when he issued a statement that explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Now over the past four years, we’ve built on those and other steps to really acknowledge and welcome LGBT people into the State Department family and other agencies.  We’ve extended benefits to same-sex domestic partners of State and USAID employees, Foreign Service officers, personal service contractors, third country nationals at missions overseas.  We’ve institutionalized these changes by creating a classification for same-sex domestic partners in the Foreign Affairs manual.  We’ve also made it clear in our Equal Opportunity Employment statement that the Department doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.
We’ve helped to make it easier for transgender Americans to change the gender listed on their passports, because our mission is not only to protect the rights and dignity of our colleagues, but also of the American people we serve.
And we’ve taken this message all over the world, including the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we worked to pass the first ever UN resolution affirming the human rights of LGBT people.
Now, together we have worked to make something very simple and right come true.  Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and sharing a life with the people they love.  And I want to say a few words about why this work is so important.
Now, leaders of all kinds will stand in front of audiences like this and tell you that our most important asset is our people.  And of course, that’s especially true in diplomacy, where we try to be very diplomatic all the time.  But what our success truly depends on is our ability to forge strong relationships and relate to people of all backgrounds.  And what that means for me, as your Secretary, is that creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.
In part, that’s because the nature of diplomacy has changed, and we should and need to keep up.  Today we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but with people from every continent and every walk of life.  And in order to do that, we need a diplomatic corps that is as diverse as the world we work in.
It’s also smart because it makes us better advocates for the values that we hold dear.  Because when anyone is persecuted anywhere, and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted or kept from fully participating in their societies, they suffer, but so do we.  We’re not only robbed of their talents and ideas, we are diminished, because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the Government of the United States.  So this is a mission that I gladly assume.  We have to set the example and we have to live up to our own values.
And finally, we are simply more effective when we create an environment that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work, when they don’t have to hide a core part of who they are, when we recognize and reward people for the quality of their work instead of dismissing their contributions because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
So really, I’m here today to say thank you to all of you.  Thank you for your courage and resolve, for your willingness to keep going despite the obstacles – and for many of you, there were and are many.  Thank you for pushing your government to do what you know was right, not just for yourselves but for all who come after you.
I want to mention one person in particular who was a key part of this fight, Tom Gallagher.  I met Tom earlier.  Where is Tom?  There you are, Tom.  Tom joined the Foreign Service in 1965 and in the early 1970s he risked his career when he came out and became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer.  He served in the face of criticism and threats, but that did not stop him from serving.  I wanted to take this moment just to recognize him, but also to put into context what this journey has meant for people of Tom’s and my vintage, because I don’t want any of you who are a lot younger ever to take for granted what it took for people like Tom Gallagher to pave the way for all of you.  It’s not a moment for us to be nostalgic.  It is a moment for us to remember and to know that all of the employees who sacrificed their right to be who they were were really defending your rights and the rights and freedoms of others at home and abroad.
And I want to say a special word about why we are working so hard to protect the rights of LGBT people around the world.  And Dan Baer, who works on this along with Mike Posner and Maria Otero, have been great champions of standing up for the rights of LGBT communities and individuals.
We have come such a long way in the United States.  Tom Gallagher is living proof of that.  And think about what it now means to be a member of a community in this country that is finally being recognized and accepted far beyond what anyone could have imagined just 20 years ago.  And remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life.
And so when I gave that speech in Geneva and said that we were going to make this a priority of American foreign policy, I didn’t see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for.  And so those who serve today in the State Department have a new challenge to do everything you can at State and AID and the other foreign affairs agencies to help keep widening that circle of opportunity and acceptance for all those millions of men and women who may never know your name or mine, but who because of our work together will live lives of not only greater safety but integrity.
So this is not the end of the story.  There’s always more we can do to live our values and tap the talents of our people.  It’s going to be an ongoing task for future Secretaries of State and Administrators at AID and for people at every level of our government.  So even as we celebrate 20 years with Ben Franklin looking down at us, I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do – those who are currently serving in our government, those who have served in the past, and those who I hope will decide to serve – to make not only the agencies of our government but our world more just and free for all people.
Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


  1. Paul R says

    If she were a man, she would have been president in the 1990s and we’d be over arguments about health care reform and many gay rights issues. Also, fewer wars. Does that mean that sexism trumps racism?

  2. AERES says

    Great example of something she didn’t “have” to do, but “chose” to do anyway! She can’t announce her 2016 candidacy soon enough!

  3. FRH says

    Does Hillary Clinton officially support marriage equality? I know her husband does, but I’m not sure about her. Thanks!

  4. FRH says

    MATEOM, Excuse me? I am a gay New Yorker 100% in favor of marriage equality and was simply asking if Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of marriage equality. According to a google search, she has supported the NY State marriage equality law but has not come out in favor of marriage equality, as Obama did.

    How about you THINK before being abusive?

  5. Tamika says

    Her 2008 campaign position was that marriage is best left to the states. A cowardly position to take. She does not exhibit so much class or integrity.

  6. Terry Jackson says

    I don’t think Hillary has made any announcement about her current position, since, in the US, it is largely a political issue and her role demands that she keep as far as possible from domestic politics. That being said, it’s clear that she has made many changes in her current role that have made life easier for LGBT citizens who are serving their country in a governmental capacity. Each time the president has made changes, they came on the heels of changes she made within her department.

    It is without doubt that Barack Obama’s decision to come out in favor of marriage equality was the single most important pro-LGBT move any president has ever made. It should be remembered, though, that he evolved to that decision only after polls showed that a majority of Americans are in favor of such policy. It should also be noted that he had no intention of announcing his “evolution” until after the election, whether or not he won; he was forced to speak publicly after Biden was so brave (and political naive; and insubordinate) to do so.

    I’m sure Hillary is for marriage equality and I’m sure we’ll learn more about her positions soon after she is in a position to speak freely, without speaking for the nation, which is her job.

  7. Icebloo says

    As soon as she leaves the role of Secretary of State Hillary will announce she supports full equality for the LGBT community. She has ALWAYS supported us – look at her actions over the years. She is the only First Lady to march in a gay pride parade and despite being advised to distance herself from gay organizations she continued to attend meetings for gay organizations when she was the First Lady.

    All you Hillary critics need to WAKE UP !

  8. Tamika says

    I woke up years ago to her trashy behavior. Remember that she ran a very racist campaign against Obama in PA and SC. I reckon she would throw us gay folks under her campaign bus again if she thought that this would win her an election. OF course, she would take our donations first. What a nasty thing she is.

  9. Terry Jackson says

    There was nothing racist about her campaign in any state, Tamika. If you choose to see it that way, nobody will talk you into seeing it another way. I’m glad that most people aren’t that cynical, though.

  10. AERES says

    Tamika – your memory is flawed, but like Terry said, no one is going to waste their time trying to convince you otherwise.

  11. andrew says

    Hillary Clinton is an outstanding human being. She has been a great First Lady, a great U.S. Senator and an outstanding Sec. of State.

  12. andrew says

    Oh yea, and I like the new hair style. It is a more sophisticated look for a very sophisticated lady!

  13. says

    WE and “all” Americans are lucky to have her on our side. Actions speak louder then words And she has spoken volumes in her roll as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State… as well as when she ran for President. There is no doubt in my mind, she is the better half of the Clinton Team, and together made America a better place for its citizens. Thank you Hillary for being there for us and hope you decide to run again for the Presidency of the United States. What ever you do, we are grateful for your support on so many issues and getting us closer to the equal rights we and all American citizens deserve.