Remarks by Deputy Administrator Mark Feierstein at the Launch of USAID’s LGBT Vision for Action

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here. Administrator Shah very much regrets that he could not join us today. He is on a train as we speak, but he wanted me to convey his gratitude for all the work you have done to advance the rights of LGBT persons and his intention to attend an event later this summer to highlight our work promoting inclusive development around the world.

I’ve been with the Obama administration for four years. When I think about the administration’s many accomplishments, a number of things come to mind: millions of people receiving health insurance and better healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act; economic recovery from the deepest recession since the Great Depression; eliminating Osama Bin Laden as a force of terror in the world.

I would also add to that list a few other things: the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; the President of the United State speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage; the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act; and the President of the United States, in an inaugural address, linking the battle for gay rights with our country’s overall struggle for civil rights.

The progress we have made as a nation is extraordinary. I am reminded of this when I think of my 20-year-old daughter. She is part of a generation that is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights. She and her friends cannot understand why anyone would be judged based on sexual orientation.

In the United States, the fight for LGBT rights has been effectively decided. There are obviously still battles to be fought. But the attitudes of today’s youth, and coming generations, are winning out and will win out.

The situation in other countries is, of course, very different.

I recently attended a meeting in the White House to discuss our government’s response to the passage of the awful legislation in Uganda that criminalizes homosexuality, one of many troubling developments with regard to LGBT rights around the world that demand the attention of our government.

And that’s where USAID, and all of you, come in.

USAID is committed to inclusive development, not only as an issue of human rights, but also because discrimination and exclusionary laws contribute to poverty. We cannot have inclusive development if LGBT populations are excluded. Their active participation is necessary for our success.

USAID has taken a number of important steps in the last couple years to advance LGBT rights.

We brought on Todd Larson, the Agency’s senior LGBT coordinator. He is bringing together domestic and global partners while ensuring that USAID is integrating LGBT considerations into every area of our work and every place where we work.

We issued a policy document, the LGBT Vision for Action. This policy paper reflects our commitment to LGBT inclusion and provides a set of principles to most effectively advance LGBT rights.

The Agency will host a public event later this summer to discuss more in-depth the elements of the policy document. But it is clear it is already making a difference in how USAID carries out its work.

We have the LGBT Global Development Partnership with 25 partners. Together we work to strengthen civil society organizations, enhance political participation, and support entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

We have also developed a first-of-its-kind training for our own staff. Hundreds of staff have completed online and in-person training on LGBT inclusion in USAID’s workplace and in our programming.

Finally, we are proud of the agency’s collaboration with the GLIFFA to support the removal of the transgender exclusion from the federal employee health benefits plans.

But there is still lots more to do. As I noted, we face difficult challenges around the world where LGBT rights are threatened. We continue to review our programming to ensure that we invest our resources where they are most needed and can make the greatest impact in places like the Caribbean and across parts of Africa.

I’m confident that we are going to continue to see great advances in the United States, and that we will see those replicated around the world as well, thanks to you and your hard work. In the same way that we have trouble fathoming the Jim Crow laws of the past, my daughter’s children will have trouble imagining a time when people were actually denied basic rights simply because of who they loved.

Thank you again for all you are doing to achieve that goal.

Last updated: June 17, 2014

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