EDITOR’S BLOG: Gay Pride and the Marvelously Maverick Ambassador

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Madrid Gay Pride Week, held this year between 2 and 6 July, is over, leaving a pleasant aftertaste and a sense of pride for the residents of a city whose second name is Encompassing Open Arms. Before the Week, the Spanish Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual and Bisexual Federation (FELGTB) estimated that over 2 million people from Spain and outside would gather in Madrid – with the legendary barrio of Chueca as the epicenter – and the capital, hard hit by the lingering economic catastrophe, would gain some €110 million from the festivities.

Whatever the final tally, Madrid Orgullo (Madrid Pride) has become Spain’s biggest street party. And that’s saying tons of a country that goes from one fiesta to another, hardly pausing for breath in between.

Europride 2007: "History's Best.! (Phot by Oscar San Jose)

Europride 2007: “History’s best.” (Photo by Oscar San Jose)

Save a few exceptions, Orgullo has long been taken by the Madrileños, regardless of their sexual identities, as their very own. They’re delighted that the Orgullo is Europe’s biggest Gay Pride celebration; that in 2007 Europride, the Official European Pride Festival, was held in their city and was declared by the president of the European Pride Organizers Association the “best Europride in history”; that in 2009, and again in 2010, Madrid Orgullo was voted the Best Annual Gay Destination by MTV’s Tripout Gay Travel Awards; and most important so far, that Madrid will be hosting World Pride in 2017.

That’s more than enough reason why GUIDEPOST has assigned some of its trusty staff to put their eye-witness account of the Orgullo 2014 on paper – so to speak, that is, now that practically nobody ever uses paper for writing!

While we wait for those stories, which will be in before you know it, we want to share with our readers around the world what the marvelously candid U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos has said about gay rights and foreign policy.

It’s a great read. Enjoy!

 

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LGBT Rights are Human Rights. Period

 

Advocating for the human rights of the LGBT community around the world is now an integral part of American foreign policy. I am proud to offer
moral support to the advocacy efforts of the Spanish
LGBT community, use my good offices to
help spotlight their issues

 

By James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain and Principality of Andorra

The day I received a call from President Obama asking me to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra was one of the proudest of my life. Not just because it is an honor to serve a president whom I truly admire, or a country that I profoundly love, but because my nomination, along with that of four other openly gay ambassadors, told the world that the United States is committed to advocating full equality for the LGBT community. This administration has made it clear that, in the words of former Secretary of State Clinton, “LGBT rights are human rights, period.” In 2014, the 10th anniversary of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia happened to fall in the same year as the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the legendary court case that ruled that separate is not equal; the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, landmark civil rights legislation; and the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which led to the establishment of the gay rights movement. This convergence is powerful and profound. . . President Obama has drawn a parallel between our society’s historic battle against race and gender discrimination and the current movement for marriage equality in the United States.

Yes, this is a focus of domestic politics in the United States, but even as we work toward ensuring that the rights of all Americans are respected at home, we endeavour to integrate the same commitment to our work abroad. Advocating for the human rights of the LGBT community around the world is now an integral part of American foreign policy . . .

Ambassador Costos and his partner Micahel Smith appear on the cover of the El País Semanal magazine, coinciding with the Orgullo week

Ambassador Costos and his partner Micahel Smith appear on the cover of the El País Semanal magazine during Orgullo week

. . . In 2011, President Obama directed all Federal agencies working abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance efforts protect and promote the human rights of LGBT persons. This has meant from increased benefits for LGBT government employees and their partners, including full diplomatic privileges for same-sex partners, through new programs to protect refugees and asylum seekers, to the launch of the Global Equity Fund, a coalition of 13 like-minded governments, corporations, and foundations that has provided more than $7.8 million in over 50countries to support groups that work to protect LGBT rights . . .

While we have seen a lot of progress in recent years . . . Secretary Kerry [has] noted that “in too many places around the world, LGBT persons are still punished for simply exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms.” This is a tragic truth: about 80 countries worldwide criminalize homosexuality, and five countries define it as a crime punishable by death. In many others, LGBT persons remain vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, harassment,  discrimination, and violence.

Yet there are countries that serve as beacons for the rest. Spain is one of them, having been at the vanguard, for example, of legalizing same sex marriage, allowing homosexual couples to adopt children, and support for transgendered people. But serving as an example often means that it is even more important to continue to ask what more could be done. That’s why we form alliances not just with governments, but also with ordinary people. Since my arrival, I have met with many members of the Spanish LGBT community who have shared their concerns, for example, with bullying in schools, hate crimes, and inequality in the workplace. I am proud to offer moral support to their advocacy efforts, use my good offices to help spotlight their issues, and connect them to the global advocacy work being done by groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.

Although in many ways the United States has much to learn from Spain’s example, there is strength to be drawn in exchanging experiences and working hand in hand to promote our shared values elsewhere around the world. As President Obama said, “We believe in human dignity —  that every person is created equal, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or who you love, or where you come from.”

 

 

 

 

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
Celebrated at the U.S. Embassy’s American Space
Madrid, May 2014

 

The celebration was jointly organized by Lesworking, Diversity Consulting, and DiverSpain, the Spanish LGTB Chamber of Commerce. The presence of Ms. Kate M. Byrnes, Public Diplomacy Counsellor, underscored the commitment of the U.S. government to the promotion of human rights including the LGBT commmunity’s.

Photos: U.S. Embassy
License: CC-BY 2.0

 

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