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U.S. State Department

State Department: Russia ‘wrongfully detained’ Brittney Griner

WNBA star to appear in Moscow court on May 19



(Screenshot via Russian television)

WASHINGTON — The State Department has determined Russia “wrongfully detained” WNBA star Brittney Griner earlier this year.

Russian authorities in February took Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

Griner is among the WNBA players who play in Russia during the league’s off-season.

“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “The U.S. government will continue to provide appropriate consular support to Ms. Griner.”

The spokesperson said Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens “will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”

Russia announced Griner’s detention shortly after it invaded Ukraine.

Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who had been in a Russian custody since 2019, returned to the U.S. last week after the Kremlin released him in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian citizen who had been in an American prison on drug trafficking charges. Griner is scheduled to appear in a Moscow court on May 19.

“Brittney’s status change is an important moment in the movement to bring her home safely and swiftly,” said National Black Justice Coalition Deputy Executive Director Victoria Kirby York in a statement. “It means there is now a two pronged approach focused on both legal and political strategies.” 

“It has become clear that Brittney’s legal team has acted in good faith to clear her name through Russia’s legal system, and that the Russian government has been actively trying to leverage Brittney’s detainment for political purposes tied to their war on Ukraine,” added York. “This is unfortunate, especially because Griner’s status as a Black, lesbian, woman leaves her vulnerable to increased discrimination and abuse at the hands of the racist and homophobic Russian government. We urge the U.S. government to do all it can to bring her home before she is no longer able to maintain her safety in a nation at war.”


U.S. State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ+ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week



State Department (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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U.S. State Department

Former State Department spokesperson named UN ambassador’s deputy

Ned Price is gay



Former State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Institute's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 3, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has announced former State Department spokesperson Ned Price will manage her D.C. office.

Thomas-Greenfield in a statement to Politico on Feb. 16 said Price’s “judgment and expertise will be a tremendous asset to me and the entire USUN team.” Price, who is gay, in a post to his personal X account acknowledged his appointment.

“I am grateful to (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield), (Secretary of State Antony Blinken) and my colleagues across the administration for the opportunity to help promote America’s interests and values in the U.N. and broader multilateral system together with our allies and partners,” wrote Price.

Price on Jan. 20, 2021, became the first openly gay State Department spokesperson. He stepped down in March 2023 in order to become a senior advisor to Blinken.

Price was previously a senior communications official for the National Security Council and worked at the Central Intelligence Agency.

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U.S. State Department

Antony Blinken visits Nigeria

State Department has not said whether LGBTQ+ rights specifically raised



Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu in Abuja, Nigeria, on Jan. 23, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Blinken's X account)

WASHINGTON — The State Department has not said whether Secretary of State Antony Blinken specifically raised LGBTQ+ rights during his trip to Nigeria last week. 

Blinken was in the country between Jan. 23-24. He also visited Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire and Angola while in Africa.

A State Department spokesperson on Jan. 26 told the Washington Blade that Blinken while in Africa “had private conversations with public sector representatives engaged in the health field and with civil society representatives involved in human rights, democracy, education and food security work.”  

Jan. 24 post on Blinken’s X account includes a picture of him meeting with representatives of Nigerian civil society organizations. The post does not indicate whether any of those with whom Blinken met represent LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and/or identify as LGBTQ+.

“Nigerian civil society organizations are critical to strengthening institutions and protecting human rights,” said Blinken. “I sat down with a few leaders to discuss the U.S.-Nigeria partnership to work on shared challenges and deliver on the fundamental aspirations of our peoples.”

Blinken also visited the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research in Lagos, the country’s largest city.

“The work that the U.S. and Nigeria are doing together goes back to the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the extraordinary PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program,” said Blinken on a Jan. 24 X post. “I had the opportunity to tour the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research and see firsthand the work they are doing to improve public health.”

Blinken on Jan. 23 met with President Bola Tinubu in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, and later held a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf Tuggar.

“As I told the president and the foreign minister, the United States will support Nigeria as it works to bring about a more secure, a more peaceful and a more prosperous future for its people,” said Blinken. 

“Fundamentally, this outcome is an investment in the foundations of an inclusive, democratic society — a focus on equal opportunity for all regardless of ethnicity, religion or any other group distinction,” he added. “That helps build the social cohesion. That also deters banditry, deters terrorism, deters violent extremism.” 

Blinken during the press conference also highlighted PEPFAR and its work in Nigeria.

“Over the last 20 years, we’ve invested $8.3 billion in HIV and tuberculosis prevention, care, and treatment and in strengthening the public health system, reaching millions of Nigerians,” he said. “That effort will continue.”

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that commits the U.S. to the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. 

Vice President Kamala Harris last March spoke about LGBTQ+ rights during a press conference with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in Accra, the country’s capital.

Ghana and Nigeria are among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Homosexuality remains punishable by death in areas of Nigeria that are under Sharia law.

Then-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that, among other things, punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage in his country with up to 14 years in prison and bans membership in an LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

Authorities in Gombe state last October arrested 76 people who were “celebrating homosexual birthdays” and planning to “hold a same-sex marriage.” 

Police in Delta state last August took into custody more than 200 people who were attending a same-sex wedding at a hotel. Authorities later paraded some of those who were arrested in front of journalists. 

LGBTQ elected officials from d.c. and maryland participate in a protest with activists outside the nigerian embassy in northwest washington on sept. 12, 2023. (washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

“In our own programming and diplomatic engagements, we work with international partners in bilateral and multilateral forums to encourage strong and sustained support for democratic governance, respect for the human rights of all, labor rights, media freedom, a strong civil society and government transparency and accountability,” said the State Department spokesperson with whom the Blade spoke on Jan 26.

The spokesperson earlier in the week noted the promotion of “democracy, good governance and respect for human rights of all persons is at the center of our foreign policy, including in our relationships with our African partners.” 

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U.S. State Department

State Department urges Ugandan government to investigate stabbing of prominent activist

Steven Kabuye attacked outside home on Wednesday



Steven Kabuye (Photo via X)

WASHINGTON — A State Department spokesperson on Thursday urged the Ugandan government to investigate the stabbing of prominent activist Steven Kabuye and prosecute those who committed it.

“We call on the government of Uganda to investigate this assault, as it would every other violent assault, and to prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law,” the spokesperson told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Kabuye is the co-executive director of Coloured Voice Truth to LGBTQ Uganda.

A video he posted to his X account on Wednesday shows him on the ground writhing in pain with a deep laceration on his right forearm and a knife embedded in his stomach.

Coloured Voice Truth to LGBTQ Uganda Advocacy Officer Hans Senfuma on X wrote two “unknown individuals who were on a motorcycle” stabbed Kabuye at around 8 a.m. near his home as he was going to work. Kabuye remains in the hospital, but a source told the Blade the knife used to stab him in the stomach did not damage any organs.

“He’s expected to heal soon,” said the source.

The stabbing took place less than seven months after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The State Department a few weeks after the Anti-Homosexuality Act took effect announced visa restrictions against unnamed Ugandan officials. The World Bank Group later announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The Biden-Harris administration has removed Uganda from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. and has issued a business advisory for the country over the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month announced sanctions against current and former Ugandan officials who committed human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people and other groups.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Dec. 18 heard arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the Anti-Homosexuality Act. 

Republican Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg on Oct. 8 defended the Anti-Homosexuality Act in a speech he gave at Uganda’s National Prayer Breakfast. The Young Turks reported Museveni is among those who attended the event.

Kabuye during an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday said “politicians who are using the LGBTQ+ community as a scapegoat to move people away from what is really happening in the country.” Kabuye further attributed the attack against him to the growing intolerance against LGBTQ+ Ugandans these officials have fueled.

“We urge respect for the human rights of all Ugandans, including LGBTQI+ persons,” the State Department spokesperson told the Blade on Thursday. “We call on the government of Uganda to respect and protect those who advocate for the safety and freedom of all Ugandans.”

It is not immediately clear whether Ugandan police have made any arrests in connection with the stabbing.

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U.S. State Department

Negotiations to release Griner stalled for now diplomat says

“We have made a serious proposal to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal”



Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow (Photo Credit: Embassy of the United States, Russia)

MOSCOW – In remarks published Monday, Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow, told Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency that talks to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan were continuing through the “designated channel.”

During the long ranging interview covering a variety of subjects, Rood was asked if she intended to visit the imprisoned WNBA star who is serving time in a Mordovian prison.

“Of course, we are going to do this as soon as the Russian authorities give us permission to visit Brittney Griner in the new colony where she was recently transferred,” the American diplomat responded and in answer to a follow-up question regarding Griner’s status Rood answered; “As far as we understood from talking to her, she is healthy and doing as well as can be expected in her difficult circumstances.”

RIA then focused on the negotiations asking for some of the details including the possibility of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout being included in the “exchange list” in the potential prisoner swap deal between the Russian and American authorities.

“I can say that the United States continues to discuss with the Russian authorities through special channels the issue of the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  As we have already said, the United States has submitted a serious proposal for consideration. We finalized this proposal and offered alternatives. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has so far received no serious response to these proposals, ” the U.S. chargée d’affaires answered.

“However, I would like to emphasize that the main concern and the first priority of the US Embassy is to ensure the well-being of the American citizens who are here. And the situation is not limited to the names of those who are mentioned in the media headlines – a number of American citizens are kept in Russian prisons. We are extremely concerned about the condition of each of them, and we continue to follow their affairs very closely and support them in every possible way,” she added.

RIA then asked: “What did you mean by “serious response” from Russia? Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the negotiations are being conducted through professional channels… What does the American side mean by “serious response”?

Rood answered telling RIA; “I mean, we have made a serious proposal that reflects our intention to take action to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal.

By “serious answer” do you mean consent? RIA asked in a follow-up question.

“I mean an answer that would help us come to an agreement,” she answered.

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U.S. State Department

Kimberly Zieselman named advisor to special U.S. envoy for LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Intersex activist describes appointment as ‘milestone’



Kimberly Zieselman (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Zieselman)

WASHINGTON — The State Department has named a prominent intersex activist as an advisor to the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.

Kimberly Zieselman on Oct. 16 announced on her Twitter page that she will work with Jessica Stern.

Zieselman is the former executive director of interACT: Advocates for IntersexYouth and author of “XOXY: A Memoir.”

“As an intersex woman, it’s not only an incredible honor to serve this administration and work with Special Envoy Stern, but my appointment isalso a milestone for the intersex community which has been historically marginalized, if not entirely erased across the globe,” Zieselman told the Washington Blade this week in a statement.

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The State Department earlier this year began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

“The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of all individuals, including intersex persons, who often face discrimination, harmful medical practices, violence, and social stigma solely based on their sex characteristics,” a State Department spokesperson told the Blade in response to Zieselman’s appointment. 

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U.S. State Department

Blinken, Lavrov speak about Brittney Griner

Call took place after public acknowledgment of deal to secure U.S. citizens release



Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday spoke with his Russian counterpart about efforts to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

The Associated Press reported Blinken urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to accept a deal to obtain the release of Griner and Whelan, an American citizen who is serving a 16-year prison sentence after his conviction for spying. American officials have reportedly expressed a willingness to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., as part of a prisoner swap.

Blinken, according to the AP, described the call with Lavrov as a “frank and direct conversation.”

“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” said Blinken. “I can’t give you an assessment of whether that is any more or less likely.”

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department has determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Brittney Griner’s trial began in Moscow on July 1.

It continues to take place, even though she had pleaded guilty to charges that she smuggled drugs in Russia. Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

Friday’s call took place two days after Blinken for the first time publicly acknowledged the U.S. has offered Russia a deal to secure the release of Brittney Griner and Whelan.

“We are determined to bring her home along with Paul (Whelan) and for that matter, any and every American who is being unjustly detained anywhere in the world,” said Blinken on June 15 during a roundtable with LGBTQ+ and intersex journalists in which the Washington Blade participated. “It’s something that I am personally focused on, and I want to leave it at that because it is obviously an ongoing issue. But just know that this is a matter of intense focus for us.”

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U.S. State Department

U.S. demands regular access to Brittney Griner in Russia

Out WNBA star detained in Moscow in February.



MOSCOW — U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan on Tuesday said Russian officials have denied consular visits to detained WNBA star Brittney Griner three times this month.

“For the third time in a month, Russian authorities have denied an embassy visit to detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” said Sullivan in a statement the U.S. Embassy in Moscow posted to its Twitter account. “This is unacceptable. We call on @mfa_russia (Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry) to provide timely consular access, in line with Russia’s international and bilateral obligations.”

Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

The State Department earlier this month determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. 

A Russian court on May 13 extended her detention for another month. The Women’s National Basketball Players Association, a union that represents WNBA players, has endorsed a petition that urges the Biden administration to “prioritize” Griner’s release.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday told reporters during his daily press briefing that a consular official “was able to speak with” Griner “on the margins of her court proceedings” on May 13.

“That consular official came away with the impression that Brittney Griner is doing as well as might be expected under conditions that can only be described as exceedingly difficult,” said Price.

“But sporadic contact is not satisfactory,” he added. “It also may not be consistent with the Vienna Convention, to which Russia has subscribed. That is why we continue to urge the Russian government to allow consistent, timely consular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, in line with those very legal obligations, and to allow us to provide consular services for U.S. citizens detained in Russia.”

Price on Tuesday also said Secretary of State Antony Blinken “had an opportunity in recent days to speak with” Griner’s wife.

Blinken spoke with her on May 14.

He conveyed once again the priority we attach to seeing the release of all Americans around the world, including Brittney Griner in the case of Russia, Paul Whelan in the case of Russia — those are Americans who we consider to be wrongfully detained,” said Price.

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U.S. State Department

Report details U.S. efforts to promote LGBTQ+ rights abroad

White House policy memo issued in 2021



Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and other State Department officials help raise the Progress Pride flag over the State Department on June 25, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Thursday released a report on the implementation of President Biden’s memo that committed the U.S. to the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights abroad.

The report notes last June’s appointment of Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights abroad and the issuance of passports with “X” gender markers that began on April 11.

Stern on Thursday told reporters during a conference call the State Department has created the Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment Initiative “that seeks to ensure democracies are inclusive of LGBTQI+ persons, representative of their communities and families and responsive to their needs and concerns.” Stern also noted roughly 60 percent of Peace Corp posts have implemented “specific LGBTQI+ equity practices within their operations.”

Stern highlighted the U.S. supported the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in a resolution in support of “democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections” the U.N. General Assembly adopted last November. Stern also noted the U.S. Agency for International Development again tracks how its foreign assistance programs promote LGBTQ+ rights.

Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who is the first openly lesbian American ambassador, on Wednesday told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview that she expects the U.S. government will endorse a proposed LGBTQ-specific safeguard for the ADB. Stern on Thursday noted the Department of Homeland Security has issued guidance to recognize informal same-sex marriages for the purposes of obtaining refugee or asylee status, even if they are not officially recognized by officials in countries of origin.”

The report also highlights how the Commerce, Defense, Justice, Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services have implemented the memo that Biden issued in February 2021.

“This memorandum makes clear that promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is a U.S. foreign policy priority,” said Stern. “The report outlines how U.S. government agencies engaged abroad are working to become LGBTQI+ inclusive. It shows that many individual actions across the U.S. government taken as a whole create institutional change and improves the daily lives of LGBTQI+ persons.”  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement echoed Stern.

“It remains vitally important that we address the violence and discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ persons while acknowledging the effects of the intersections of race and ethnicity, gender, disability, religion and national origin, to name a few,” said Blinken. 

“As the report demonstrates, the U.S. government advances these priorities by supporting efforts to end the criminalization of LGBTQI+ status and conduct, seeking to protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers, providing foreign assistance to protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons and advancing  non-discrimination protections, responding to human rights abuses of LGBTQI+ persons abroad, building coalitions of like-minded nations, and engaging international organizations in the fight against LGBTQI+ discrimination,” added Blinken. “Our collective efforts drive toward the goal of ending violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics. Equality and equity build stronger societies for all.”

USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Thursday said the memo “was a call to action based on a simple premise: That all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

“Over the past year, as today’s report demonstrates, USAID has made important progress toward achieving these ambitions through a commitment to LGBTQI+ inclusive development in our policies and programs that reach millions of people around the world,” said Power.

The full report can be read here.

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U.S. State Department

State Dept. urged to pressure countries to recognize diplomats’ same-sex spouses

Democratic lawmakers wrote Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 18



Harry S. Truman State Department Building (Photo: Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON — A group of Democratic lawmakers have urged the State Department to do more to ensure countries recognize the same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats.

“We write regarding the continued challenges surrounding diplomatic accreditation faced by LGBTQI+ Department of State employees and their spouses,” reads an April 18 letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) spearheaded. “This issue should be proactively raised in all relevant bilateral meetings by department leaders, especially at the chief of mission level abroad and at the front office or higher level domestically.”

The letter specifically notes upwards of 70 countries around the world “continue to deny visas to same-sex spouses.”

“This effectively renders a vast swath of overseas assignments unbiddable to many Foreign Service families,” reads the letter. “We are concerned that the Department of State has left this issue unresolved for too long, utilizing ‘workarounds’ instead of addressing the problem. We urge you to prioritize raising diplomatic accreditation for same-sex partners at the highest levels in all interactions internally and externally.”

The letter that more than 40 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed indicates “several additional countries” in the Western Hemisphere, the Middle East and North Africa “are finalizing agreements to soon begin accrediting spouses of the same sex.”

“We understand that the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, through the leadership of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Joey Hood, has been at the forefront of developing successful strategies for engagement on this issue with countries in their region,” reads the letter. “We hope that you will promote and employ the tactics developed by the NEA (Near Eastern Affairs) Bureau, such as raising the issue of diplomatic accreditation at the ambassadorial level in addition to management counselors and other working level officials, as well as encourage other regional, and where appropriate functional, bureaus to replicate this model.”

“We further urge you to promote equal diplomatic accreditation for LGBTQI+ spouses as a chief of mission priority in Integrated Country Strategies in countries where same-sex couples are currently denied full privileges and immunities and in other high-level department strategic planning,” it continues. “By including diplomatic accreditation as a mission priority, department leadership ensures that attention and resources are dedicated to advancing change. Additionally, we encourage you to develop a robust reporting mechanism that allows ambassadors and chiefs of mission to easily share feedback on successful or unsuccessful strategies, which can be used to the advantage of missions in similar situations.”

The letter also notes the Vienna Convention ensures “our diplomats and their family members should be accredited and receive full diplomatic protections and immunities in the countries to which they are assigned, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, who co-founded LGBT+ Pride in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) in 1992, is among those who expressed support for the lawmakers’ call.

“This initiative could put the United States in the lead when it comes to encouraging equal treatment for all families,” said Osius in a press release that announced the letter. “Inclusivity benefits everyone.”

The Obama administration in 2009 implemented a policy that asked countries to accredit same-sex partners of U.S. Foreign Service personnel on a “reciprocal basis” in order to receive diplomatic visas. The Biden White House last year issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ rights abroad.

“We have made and continue to make strong efforts to engage foreign governments on the issue of same-sex spouse accreditation,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

The spokesperson did not specifically comment on the letter, but stressed “fostering diversity and inclusion in the department is a top priority.”

“The State Department is striving to recruit and retain a workforce of talented people that reflects the true diversity of our country, including in our appointments at the most senior levels,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson noted Blinken appointed former U.S. Ambassador to Malta Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department’s first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights abroad, assumed her position last September.

“Globally, the United States advances the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons through bilateral and multilateral channels, raising official concerns with governments both publicly and privately, coordinating our response with like-minded countries, and offering emergency assistance to LGBTQI+ persons and groups at risk,” said the spokesperson. “ Through our foreign assistance programming, we support civil society by providing LGBTQI+ individuals and communities with the tools and resources to prevent, mitigate and recover from violence, discrimination, stigma, and other abuses.  We also provide support for programs that empower local LGBTQI+ movements and work to eliminate laws that criminalize LGBTQI+ status and/or conduct.”

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