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Leading U.S. diplomats attend Pride celebrations

British Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch speaks at a Pride reception at the British Embassy in D.C. on June 8. Photo Courtesy British Embassy

UK ambassador urges countries to decriminalize homosexuality British Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch on Friday urged Commonwealth countries that have yet to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations to do so. “We just urge all of our friends and partners in other countries around the world to move on as we have done to make their societies more open, more liberal, to embrace anti-discrimination in relation to the LGBT community as we have,” Darroch told the Washington Blade during an interview at the British Embassy in D.C. “It just makes your society a better place.” “These are individuals after all who contribute massively wherever they are,” he added. The Blade spoke with Darroch before the embassy’s annual Pride reception, which took place less than two months after Prime Minister Theresa May said she “deeply” regrets colonial-era laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations the U.K. introduced in Commonwealth countries. “Discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalizing same-sex relations and failing to protect women and girls,” said May in a speech she gave at the Commonwealth summit in London on April 17. “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the U.K.’s prime minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.” A judge on Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court on April 22 struck down the country’s sodomy law. Three LGBT people in Barbados on June 6 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that challenges their country’s sodomy law. Activists in India, Kenya and other Commonwealth countries continue to challenge colonial-era statutes that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts. “She was absolutely right to do it,” Darroch told the Blade, referring to May’s speech. “It was a courageous statement, but it was very clear and very firm and I agree with it completely.” Laws that pardoned gay and bisexual men who were convicted under homophobic statutes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland took effect in 2017. The Scottish Parliament on June 6 unanimously approved these pardons for gay and bisexual men in Scotland who were prosecuted under anti-gay laws. Queen Elizabeth II in 2013 posthumously pardoned Alan Turing, a pioneering mathematician who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having a relationship with another man. Darroch told the Blade the U.K. now has “some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws on the planet.” There are currently 45 MPs in the U.K. Darroch also pointed out same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in England, Scotland and Wales since 2014. “In that context, I think it’s exactly right for the prime minister to have said what she said,” he said, referring to May’s speech. “I’m proud to represent a government that does that kind of thing.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS

High-ranking diplomats who implement U.S. foreign policy this week attended Pride month celebrations. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) on Tuesday delivered remarks at GLIFAA’s annual Pride month reception at the State Department. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not attend the event, but he issued a Pride month statement on June 1. “The United States joins people around the world in celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Pride month and reaffirms its commitment to protecting and defending the human rights of all, including LGBTI persons,” said Pompeo. U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green and former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe on Wednesday spoke at USAID’s annual Pride month reception. “I want to say thank you to all of my LGBTI colleagues who are here today,” said Green, who in his remarks specifically acknowledged Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent LGBTI activist and former USAID employee in Bangladesh who was murdered in 2016. “Your voice is important individually, but also together. Your advocacy and your voice individually and all together makes us a stronger agency and it makes us a better agency, and I think makes us a more responsive agency.” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley on Wednesday acknowledged Pride month in a statement. “This June, we join our friends in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community around the world who are celebrating Pride month,” said Haley. “At the U.N. we see the importance of defending freedoms of LGBTI persons from governments that violate their own people’s human rights.” “The United States embraces personal freedom, rejects discrimination and supports the global LGBTI community in standing up for their human rights,” she added. U.S. embassies and consulates in Paraguay, Cuba and other countries have publicly acknowledged Pride month and the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by raising the rainbow flag and holding receptions with LGBTI rights advocates. “It was an honor to preside over the first public ceremony of the raising of the rainbow flag during LGBTI Pride month today at the embassy,” said U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Lee McClenny on his Twitter page on Wednesday. “The fight to protect the rights, dignity and equity of all people is a task that we must undertake together.” The Trump administration continues to promote LGBTI rights abroad. This year’s Pride month is nevertheless taking place against the backdrop of growing criticism over the White House’s domestic LGBT rights record and its overall foreign policy. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

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