This week's "Photo of the Week" comes to us from State Department photographer Michael Gross and shows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivering remarks at the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs (GLIFAA) 20th Anniversary celebration at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 2012.
GLIFAA works to secure full parity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) personnel and their families in U.S. foreign affairs agencies. GLIFAA seeks to raise awareness about LGBT issues and advocate for LGBT Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Contract employees and their partners and children. GLIFAA also serves as a support network and resource of information for LGBT employees and their families.
During her remarks, Secretary Clinton said, "…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.”
Secretary Clinton continued, "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."
Secretary Clinton concluded, "…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."
You can read Secretary Clinton's full remarks here.