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The Bay Are Reporter Online:
President Barack Obama's two terms in office saw a great deal of change for LGBT rights abroad.
The global campaign for LGBT rights started December 6, 2011 with a simultaneous presidential memorandum and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic speech in Geneva, Switzerland where she declared, "Gay rights are human rights."
The memorandum directed United States agencies working in foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad in decisions about aid, combating criminalization, and protecting vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
Since that day LGBT people around the world had an ally in Obama and two secretaries of state, Clinton and John Kerry, and a safe harbor at U.S. embassies for Pride festivities and other LGBT events. Obama appointed six gay ambassadors: Dan Baer, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna, John Berry in Australia, James "Wally" Brewster in the Dominican Republic, James Costos in Spain and Andorra, Rufus Gifford in Denmark, and Ted Osius in Vietnam.
In 2015 the State Department added Randy Berry as its first-ever special U.S. envoy to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad.
At the United Nations, Obama's two ambassadors, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, both advocated for recognition of LGBT rights globally. Power, along with U.N. Ambassador Cristian Barros Melet of Chile, led the Arria, an informal meeting of the 15-member Security Council to hear testimony from Syrian and Iraqi LGBTs.
2011 also saw the establishment of the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership supporting global LGBT advocacy, overseen by the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development. It has given out more than $33 million in funding.
Obama consistently spoke out about LGBT rights and took actions. He regularly acknowledged LGBT people of courage, such as Jamaica's Angeline Jackson, founder and executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica. He ignored warnings and naysayers urging him not to speak about LGBT rights during his trips to Africa. He spoke out against anti-LGBT laws at a news conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal in 2013. Two years later, Obama raised LGBT rights again during a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Obama took action when Uganda passed the so-called jail the gays bill by slapping sanctions on the country in 2014.
The Washington Blade reported that Kerry advocated for the release of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim from his five-year sentence for alleged sodomy during a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2015.
Also in 2015, USAID formally banned discrimination among its contractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the law doesn't extend to employees of organizations overseas that receive U.S. funding or USAID grantees.
Tillerson shrugs off LGBT rights during confirmation hearing
Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson faced many questions from Democrats and Republicans during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee January 11-12.
The nine-hour hearing focused on many issues, such as labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal because of the Russian military's involvement in the Syrian civil war and the targeting of civilians that have killed many, reported National Public Radio.
His response to Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who asked the question, was that he wanted more information before reaching a conclusion.
"Those are very, very serious charges to make and I'd want to have much more information before reaching that conclusion," Tillerson, 64, responded.
Tillerson also said that he would want more information about Putin, with whom he is friendly, regarding allegations that the Kremlin is behind human rights violations, such as killing journalists.
Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) posed a question on LGBT rights.
Tillerson responded, "American values don't accommodate violence or discrimination against anyone."
Coons followed up asking whether Tillerson believed the promotion of gay rights is "a piece of our human rights advocacy and agenda around the world."
"That's part of that American values that we protect," responded Tillerson, reported the Washington Blade.
Tillerson's noncommittal response to how LGBT rights will be handled in his potential State Department is what continues to cause LGBT rights advocates concern.
President-elect Donald Trump's adviser Tony Perkins, who is president of the Family Research Council, has called for the firing of all current LGBT employees at the State Department. Last month, Trump's team requested a list of all State Department positions related to advancing gender equality. Insiders expressed concern that a request for a list of LGBT programs will be next. New, Now, Next reported that the current State Department administration rejected the request.
Then there's Tillerson's record as head of Exxon Mobil. The company resisted implementing policies protecting its LGBT employees in the U.S. and around the world up until 2015. In 1999, when Exxon acquired Mobil, domestic partner benefits and company policies protecting LGBT workers were eliminated by the merger, according to human rights organizations. Exxon Mobil became the only company to score a negative 25 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index in 2012 and 2013.
The oil company's score only rose due to protections implemented by federal laws and policies and Obama's executive orders that forced the company to protect its queer employees, according to experts. Last year, following the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling, LGBT Exxon Mobil employees in the U.S. finally received full protections.
Exxon Mobil received an 85 percent rating on HRC's 2017 Corporate Equality Index. The New York Times reported that the multibillion-dollar company was docked points due to its philanthropic arm's guidelines allowing donations to non-religious organizations that discriminate against LGBT people and because its anti-discrimination policy only covers U.S. LGBT employees.
However, Tillerson has taken smaller pro-LGBT stances in recent years with the Boy Scouts of America. His role as president of the Boy Scouts from 2010 to 2012 was "instrumental" in ending the Scouts' ban on gay youth, his colleague John Hamre told the Dallas Morning News. The Boy Scouts lifted its ban against gay youth in 2013. In 2015 it lifted the ban against adult participants, but troops chartered by religious organizations are permitted to exclude gay people as den leaders, scoutmasters, or camp counselors.