Tony Blinken on putting the US ‘at the forefront of the fight’ for LGBTQI rights around the world

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Event Transcript

The Hon. Antony J. Blinken
US Secretary of State

Jonathan Capehart
Journalist, the Washington Post and MSNBC

JONATHAN CAPEHART:  Hello and welcome to this special edition of AC Front Page, the Atlantic Council’s premier live ideas platform for global leaders. I’m Jonathan Capehart, journalist with the Washington Post and MSNBC. Thank you for joining us today.

Across the country and around the world the month of June is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the LGBTQI community from all walks of life. However, both at home and abroad there are significant challenges that affect the everyday lives of LGBTQI individuals. In his first year in office, President Biden and his administration have an opportunity to advocate for the social, economic, and political equality for sexual and gender minorities. Already the State Department has encouraged US missions abroad to fly the pride flag in solidarity with a global LGBTQI community. And by taking a more assertive approach to LGBTQI foreign policy so that the US government has a chance to affect change and move the needle on human rights around the world.

Today I am delighted to be joined by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hear more from him about the Biden administration’s priorities for protecting and promoting the LGBTQI community, starting at the State Department and reaching beyond our borders. Secretary Blinken served as deputy secretary of state for President Barack Obama from 2015 to 2017, and before that as president of—President Obama’s principal deputy national security advisor. Mr. Secretary, I’m looking forward to your—to your remarks and our conversation.

This event is hosted by the Atlantic Council which, through its LGBTI Advisory Council and LGBTI in Foreign Affairs Fellowships, and Out in Energy network is promoting LGBTI leadership throughout the foreign affairs and national security community. The event is also co-hosted by glifaa, the LGBTQI+ Employee Affinity Group for the US State Department and other foreign affairs agencies. Glifaa has been working for nearly thirty years to ensure LGBTQI employees can serve their country proudly and with dignity. We welcome you to engage in the conversation using the hashtag #ACFrontPage.

Mr. Secretary, before we begin our discussion, your opening remarks.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Jonathan, thank you very, very much. First of all, happy pride, everybody. I am delighted to be part of this conversation. And I especially want to thank you, Jonathan, for serving as moderator today. And thank you to the Atlantic Council, and all of my friends there for many, many years for helping to bring us together, and to glifaa for bringing us together as well, for what is an important discussion. So let me just say a few words to get us started, and then look forward to having a conversation with you and other colleagues who will join in.

One of the leading human rights issues of our time is the treatment of LGBTQI people around the world. You know this better than I do. In many countries they face violence, harassment, stigma, rejection. They aren’t protected equally by laws. In fact, they’re often targeted and scapegoated by those who make and enforce the laws. They’re denied equal access to health care, housing, employment, justice. And for some, simply living openly as their true selves can be incredibly dangerous. 

And I’m not just talking about far-off places. Here at home, LGBTQI people have had to fight tooth and nail for every inch of progress, and there’s still painful setbacks. There’s still hate and violence. There’s still too much bias across our society, in workplaces, in schools and churches, households, and in our government. This matters to me as a person and as an American. 

It also matters to me as secretary of state. One of our country’s greatest strengths is our identity as a place where freedom, justice, opportunity are available to everyone. When that rings true, when we make progress toward those ideals, the world notices. When we fall short, well, the world notices that, too. 

Our ability to stand up for human rights and democracy in other places depends on whether we’re strong on those fronts here at home. And by standing up for human rights worldwide we’re not only delivering for people in other countries, we’re also delivering for the American people because human rights and democracy are intrinsically linked with stability, broad-based prosperity, peace, and progress, and that’s all in our interests.

But, most important, defending and advancing human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI people, is simply the right thing to do, and at our best, the United States does the right thing. 

That’s why a few days after taking office President Biden signed a memorandum instructing all US agencies engaged in diplomacy and development to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI people around the world. 

Specifically, it named combating the criminalization of LGBTQI status or conduct, protecting vulnerable LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers, ensuring that our foreign assistance protects human rights and advances nondiscrimination, responding swiftly and meaningfully to human rights abuses, and building coalitions of international organizations and like-minded nations. That is, using our convening power to advance global support for the human rights of LGBTQI people. 

So here at the State Department we’re now putting those provisions into action across our bureaus, across the department, on everything from our refugee programs to our global COVID-19 response to our multilateral engagement. 

For example, this week we’re sponsoring our first ever side event at the United Nations on the rights of transgender and gender-diverse people worldwide. Because, again, this is a core human rights issue and we believe the United States belongs at the forefront of the fight speaking out, standing up, for our values. 

And we couldn’t do that without our people. I want to give a special thank you to all the members of glifaa past and present who have blazed the trail one step at a time, often in the face of great resistance, to change our country and the State Department for the better.

We still have a great deal of work to do before the human rights of all people everywhere are respected. That’s a mission we’re proud to undertake, and I’m very grateful to all of you for being part of it. 

With that, I’m eager to have a conversation, also to hear from some of you. So, Jonathan, over to you. 

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, Mr. Secretary, again, thank you very much for being here, and before we get to the topic at hand, I do, of course, have to ask a news of day question.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: I’d expect nothing less. (Laughter.)

JONATHAN CAPEHART: The New York Times is reporting that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is moving fast on legislation to get visas for folks in Afghanistan who helped the United States. Earlier this month, you told the House Foreign Affairs Committee the administration is looking, quote, “at every possible contingency.” 

Have you narrowed those contingencies and do they include evacuation to a third country while they await US visas?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, first, just to emphasize the point because it is vitally important, we have an obligation, a debt, to help those who helped us. We have people in Afghanistan who worked side by side with our diplomats, with our soldiers as guides, interpreters, translators, put themselves on the line, put their lives on the line, put the security and the well-being of their families on the line, and we owe them. It’s as simple as that. 

And as part of that, we’ve had, starting in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, a program to—for Special—so-called Special Immigrant Visas to put folks who have helped us in a special place where they can apply, hopefully, in a more expedited fashion to come to the United States. We are doing everything we can to make sure that that program can move forward with the resources it needs to answer the demand that exists.

Just to give you a sense of where this stands, there are about 18,000 people who have expressed interest, or more, in using this program to come to the United States—in other words, 18,000 people who worked directly with our soldiers, with our diplomats in Afghanistan. About 9,000 of those are just in the beginning of the process. They have expressed interest. They’re looking at it. They haven’t filled out the forms. Another 9,000, though, have filled out the forms. They’re working through the process. And we’ve got a number of them that are awaiting approval by our embassy in Afghanistan and others who are actually in the immigration process itself.

We’ve surged resources to make sure that we could make good by the people who are seeking these special immigrant visas. We’ve added about 50 people here at the State Department. A lot of the work actually gets done here at State. We have additional people in the field. We have reduced and, in fact, eliminated some backlogs that existed. We’ve got challenges. We actually have a new COVID emergency in Afghanistan where we’ve had to pull back a little bit on some of the work that we’re doing in country. But the work that happens out of country, which is actually the bulk of it, is going forward.

So that’s basically where things stand. We’re going to Congress to get more of these visa allowances.

At the same time—to your point, Jonathan—we continue to look at every possible contingency to make sure that one way or another we can accommodate the demand. We haven’t ruled anything out, and right now we’re focused on making sure that we actually can make good on the folks who are in the system. And as is stands today, that’s what we’re doing.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thank you for that response, Mr. Secretary.

So, as you mentioned in your opening remarks, you and the president have made it clear that LGBTQ+ issues are a part of US foreign policy. How specifically is that manifesting itself 152 or so days into the Biden administration?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: So, you know, there are a few things that are—that are happening.

First, on one level it’s show me your talking points and I’ll show you your priorities. This is now something that is much more integrated in the day-in, day-out work that we’re doing in the department. There are engagements with countries wide and far. We’re doing it. We’re engaged on these issues on a bilateral basis when we’re dealing country-to-country. We’re dealing much more on a multilateral basis in international organizations. I mentioned this first-ever side event at the United Nations to put a spotlight on some of the challenges. We are working to coordinate more with like-minded countries. And a lot of this involves programmatic support as well, making sure that we’re getting assistance out to groups that can help put a spotlight on challenges, on issues; emergency assistance to people who are in need and who are threatened by violence, by discrimination; and across the board are trying, as well, to empower some of the local groups and local movements that are trying to make good on the agenda.

So what you’re—what you’re seeing is actually integrating all of this work into what we’re doing every single day.  And this is not just—it’s not just me.  It’s not just other senior colleagues. We’re trying to do this spread out across the department.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: So I have a symbolic question and then a substantive question in terms of manifestation.

Symbolically, during the Obama-Biden administration one of the hallmarks was the pride flag being flown at embassies around the world.


JONATHAN CAPEHART: The previous administration did away with that, in some ways very proudly doing away with the pride flag at embassies. I saw I believe somewhere on social media the pride flag flying at an embassy around the world. Is that the stated policy at the Blinken State Department, that if you are an ambassador anywhere at an American embassy around the world and you want to fly the pride flag, fly the pride flag?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: The answer is yes. We’ve made that clear. We’ve given our chiefs of mission and our ambassadors around the world the authority to do that.  When we’re trying to advance/defend/support the protection of LGBTQI persons around the world, we want to make sure that we’re doing this in a way that takes into account the specific situation/conditions in a given country. But in every single country where we’re represented, our chiefs of mission, our ambassadors, our chargés, whoever’s in charge, have the authority to fly the pride flag on an exterior—external-facing pole at the embassy. And I think that’s hugely important because this is, again, the strength, the power of our own example. The willingness to speak up, to speak out, to show the strength of our own diversity, including at our embassies, I think sends a hugely important message.

One thing that I can actually announce today for the first time is that we will be flying the progress flag, a symbol that encompasses the diversity and intersectionality of LGBTQI persons and communities around the world, at the State Department later this month. We’ll fly the flag from June 26th to the 28th. And that’s a period that, I know as so many know, marks a couple of important turning points in our history for LGBTQI rights. 

June 26th, the anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision in 2015 in Obergefell vs. Hodges, which ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples and is the law of the land. June 28th, I think everyone knows, marks the anniversary of the start of the Stonewall riots, which in many ways back in 1969 was the genesis of the global LGBTQI rights movement. So I think this is going to be a significant couple of days. And we will see the progress flag flying at the State Department.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: I’m going to just rib you for a moment because how did the Agriculture Department beat you to this? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, you know, in the category of maybe sometimes a little bit better late than never, look, I’m glad. This is great, that we have our administration, our government across the administration, across the government, firing on all cylinders. And I think it’s a reflection of the fact that President Biden set the tone from day one. So if we have to play a little catch up, we are.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: So in February the State Department, your spokesperson Ned Price from the podium expressed concern over two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia and returned to their homeland. You just got back from Geneva, where President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Did the—did Russia’s LGBTQ rights record come up at that meeting? Did the president push that issue with President Putin?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: The president pushed human rights, including LGBTQI rights, with President Putin.  And I think he referred to this in his press conference as well. What he told President Putin is that as an American president, where for all of our challenges—many of which are manifested in recent months and recent years—this is something that is basically stamped into our DNA. And he would be abdicating his responsibility as president—as an American president—not to raise these issues. Now, we didn’t get into specific cases in that meeting, but he made very clear to President Putin that this is fundamentally who we are and who he is, and what we’ll do and we’ll continue to do going forward.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: What was President Putin’s response?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, I don’t want to characterize his response. You should ask the Russians.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: (Laughs.) You were in the room.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, I wouldn’t be fair of me to say what he said or didn’t say. But I think it’s fair to say that there was at least an acknowledgement of that basic fact of life. This is what an American president should do. This is who we are and this is what we represent to the world.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: You’ve said a couple of times in responses but also in your opening remarks about how at home and abroad the LGBTQI community is facing all sorts of pressures. Here in the United States right now there is the Equality Act that passed the House sitting in the United State Senate awaiting a vote. No vote has been—has been scheduled. I know it’s either highly unusual or never that a secretary of state gets involved in domestic politics, but could you talk about why for foreign consumption it’s important that the Equality Act be passed by Congress?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Look, I really can’t get into domestic—you’re right, I can’t get into domestic politics. I won’t. It’s one of the maybe some would say luxuries of the job, but I think it’s one of the necessities of the job that I not do that. And one of the things I’d made very clear in taking the job was that politics stops at the C Street doors, where we are here at the department.

But what I can say is this, because it goes to the larger point. I know as I’m traveling around the world—and thankfully, we’re now able to truly start to do that—that the effectiveness of the impact of our foreign policy is directly tied to our strength at home and the power of our example, as President Biden likes to say, is as important as the example of our power. And so when we’re seen as making progress at home, when we’re seen as getting a little bit closer to achieving our ideals—something we’ll never fully achieve; forming a more perfect union by definition says that we’re constantly in that quest—but as we’re—as we’re seen as trying to do that, that gives us so much greater standing around the world to try to advance rights for all day-in, day-out. So I know that my foreign interlocutors are looking at this all the time.

So I can’t speak to specific pieces of legislation or laws. I can say that our progress at home is directly tied to our ability to be a force for progress around the world.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: So, Mr. Secretary, we have questions—


JONATHAN CAPEHART: —from the audience. And I want to go to the first question, which is from Meghan Luckett, a public affairs officer from the U.S. embassy in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

MEGHAN LUCKETT: Yes. Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary, and thank you very much for this opportunity.

My question is this. Since 1999, there have been thirteen out LGBTQI+ ambassadors with President Biden nominating three more. However, all of them have been white gay cis men. Keeping in mind that the State Department has rightly centered its DEI focus on the importance of intersectionality and representation, what can and should the department do to ensure the full spectrum of the LGBTQI+ identities and experiences, including Black, Indigenous, people of color, are reflected at the highest levels?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Meghan, thanks very much. First of all, thanks for your work and service. And second, thanks for the question, and I think it’s an important one.

My belief is that when all is said and done, when you—when you see the appointments that the administration makes in senior positions across the department, as well as abroad, that we’ll be able to show a real reflection of the diversity of the community itself in those appointments. So I can’t get into specific (laughs) names or positions right now. It’s a lengthy process—I think you know that as well—in terms of getting people in place. But I hear what you’re saying and I think—I expect that what you’ll see will be an answer to that question.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: All right. Our next question—


JONATHAN CAPEHART: Sorry. Our next question comes from Austin Richey-Allen, deputy consular chief at the US embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.

AUSTIN RICHEY-ALLEN: Hello, sir. Greetings from Kathmandu. Thank you very much for engaging in this important conversation.

As an—as an openly transgender employee at the State Department, I’ve spoken to other trans and nonbinary employees, as well as those with trans or nonbinary family members. The top concerns that I’ve heard relate to the availability of gender-affirming medical care while assigned abroad, policies related to workplace protections, and access to passports and other documents that accurately represent our identity. Could you talk about what is on the horizon in the State Department to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for gender-diverse people? And if any trans people are watching now who may be considering a career at the State Department, do you have any particular message for them? Thank you.

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Great. Thank you. And again, thank you as well for everything that you’re doing and for your service.

Let me—let me pull this back a little bit and then address the question more specifically. When it comes more broadly to diversity and inclusion in the department, I’ve made—I’ve made that a priority for however long I’m in this job. And I’ve said this repeatedly, I’ve said it publicly as well as privately, that I’ll consider it a mark of my success or not in this job whether, by the time I’m done, we put in place a stronger foundation to have a genuinely diverse department that truly reflects the people that we’re supposed to represent.

And a lot goes into that, as you know. But one of the things that we’ve done is we’ve appointed for the first time ever a chief diversity and inclusion officer. And that office will—is actually an office with a—with a team. It reports directly to me. And it has the responsibility of making sure that across the board the department is genuinely addressing and making progress on building a more diverse and inclusive—and that word “inclusive” is hugely important—department so that, again, we reflect the people that we represent.

This starts with recruiting and making sure that we’re actually reaching out really early on in the pipeline to open people’s eyes and hearts and minds to the possibility of serving the country and serving the State Department, serving our foreign policy. A lot more to follow on that.

But we know that even once we get people through the doors here at C Street, that’s not enough. In fact, we’ve seen time and again that people coming from diverse communities get into the State Department and then leave because we’ve done a bad job in addressing the particular concerns and particular challenges faced by people coming from diverse communities that many of us are simply not in tune with or aware of. And so one of the responsibilities, as well, of the chief, diversity and inclusion office is going to be making sure that we’re focused on some of the cultural challenges that come to making sure the department is genuinely inclusive across the board and that people feel that they’re at home, they’re respected, and that they can actually make a real career out of the department—that they can see the possibility of advancing, that they can see the possibility of having the most senior jobs over their careers. And that ties into making sure that, again, our appointments, including at the most senior levels, reflect that diversity.

Finally, accountability, and that starts with me. We’ve got to make sure that as we’re working to create a more diverse department, to put in place a foundation that will sustain that diversity going forward, that we actually have accountability. And that comes with making sure that we can actually show the progress, that we have data that’s disaggregated, which has been one of the challenges in the past. And that’s true across different communities.

Now, when it comes to the LGBTQI community in general, when it comes to transgender, gender-diverse persons in particular, this, too, is an area I think of particular emphasis, particular need. We put out guidance back in April regarding transgender employees and management rights and responsibilities on—in the workplace. What’s so important here is that that guidance was the product of a consultation with glifaa. We wanted to make sure that we had the input going in—not just presenting something on the landing, that we actually had it on the takeoff.

Which is another reason, by the way, why this diversity across the board in our department is so important. If we don’t have colleagues here in the department who can help us with internal policy choices and decisions, we’re not going to get it right.

I think the guidance is a good—a good start. It addresses a number of issues, I think, of real importance where we needed greater clarity, greater understanding, actually needed policies addressing, for example, the use of pronouns, dress codes, the usage of bathrooms in accord with identity, et cetera. And it’s also the first means by which we’re actually providing resources to people who have questions, have concerns, have issues. I hope that’s going to be something that sends a message to future colleagues about the environment, the culture, the welcoming nature of this institution.

As I mentioned, we have this—just in a couple of days this first-ever side event in the United Nations that I’m proud to be able to participate in. And beyond that, I think you’re going to see some broader policy announcements that go beyond the State Department that’ll be coming out of the administration soon, all of which I hope send a very clear, very strong message that not only do we welcome, we want to be part of this administration, to be part of our government a workforce of talented people that reflect the true diversity of our country.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Austin Richey-Allen, thank you very much for your question.

The next question comes from Coco Lim, a program associate for Latin America and the Caribbean at Freedom House.

COCO LIM: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your time today.

So, according to Freedom House Freedom in the World reports and analysis, the quest to secure greater protections for LGBTQ people in Latin America has lost momentum over the past few years with some Latin American governments pursuing hostile legal frameworks, jeopardizing political and civil rights, especially the rights of trans women as the crimes against this population often go unpunished and sometimes uninvestigated—for instance, in the most recent murder of Guatemalan activists Andrea González and Cecy Ixpata. So in that context and with your new leadership in Washington, how can the US help to revitalize efforts to put an end to violence, discrimination, and impunity on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and perhaps specifically violence against trans folks, throughout the Latin American region?

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, first, thank you for the work that you’re doing. I read the Freedom House reports very, very carefully every year. And I think, look, you’ve put your finger on something that unfortunately is very stark and very powerful. And that is a wider trend that Freedom House has done more than any organization to document of this democratic recession that we’ve been seeing around the world, a recession that’s been going on and getting deeper—going on for the past dozen or more years, 15 years or so, and, as I said, getting deeper, unfortunately, over the last few years. And this is an issue of profound concern to me, to the president, to the administration.

And it’s not surprising that one of the markers of that recession has been exactly what you’ve cited, which is not only a slowing of progress—a diminution of progress for the LGBTQI communities around the world, but in a number of cases actual regression, moving backwards, when it comes to violence, when it comes to discrimination, when it comes to legal frameworks. And the two cases that you’ve actually cited I’ll be speaking to in a couple of days at the United Nations.

And for us, in terms of what we can do about it, it really starts with putting democracy and human rights—including the rights of the LGBTQI communities—at the heart of our foreign policy. And that goes back to what we were talking about just a few minutes ago, that it is on the agenda in our conversations country-to-country, that it’s on the agenda in what we’re doing in multilateral institutions around the world, that it’s on the agenda in terms of our programs and the resources that we dedicate, whether it’s emergence assistance to people from these communities who are in need, in danger, or the support that we’re giving to civil society and organizations that stand up for and advance LGBTQI rights. All of that goes to the heart of our foreign policy and what we’re trying to do.

We have in a whole host of countries, you know, efforts underway to push back against discriminatory legal frameworks and laws. This is one of the most pernicious things, in many ways, that we’re seeing. Beyond overt instances of violence, discrimination, when you have a legal framework that actually institutionalizes that, that’s maybe the most fundamental problem of all. We’re working on this day in, day out, country to country as we speak.  I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of transgender people, especially people of color and especially when we’re seeing within this overall regression particular instances of violence and discrimination against that community. So this is something we’re giving a particular focus to.

But the bottom line is this: It has to be, and it is, integrated in our foreign policy. Unfortunately, it’s not like flipping a light switch. I don’t think we’re going to see or show results, you know, from Friday to Monday. But if we’re doing it in a sustained, focused, and determined way, my hope is that over the next few years we’ll actually start to turn the corner and see progress again, not regression.

JONATHAN CAPEHART:  Thank you very much, Coco Lim. 

We have one more question. This one, Mr. Secretary, comes from Michael Castellano, associate director for strategic partnerships at Heartland Alliance International. Unfortunately, he cannot be on camera because of a train mishap. He’s fine, but he can’t be with us. So I’m going to ask this question for you. And in your response to this fold in your final remarks because we are running out of time.

He asks: “President Biden’s memorandum committing to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad underscores five priorities, one of which is funding efforts to protect human rights and to advance nondiscrimination around the world, which you mentioned earlier. For those of us in civil society engaged in the implementation of such programs in collaboration with the LGBTQ partners in the field, can you elaborate on how the Department of State under your leadership will leverage foreign assistance funding to support LGBTQ human rights programming?”

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: So I think there are a number of things. And I appreciate the question, but also very relieved to hear that everything’s OK. So that’s good. There are a number of ways we’re doing this. Look, we have our efforts—ongoing efforts as a founding member to lead and administer something called the Global Equality Fund. And that is a pretty unique, and I think effective, public-private partnership that provides emergence assistance, for example, to LGBTQI organizations and persons that are under threat, as well as supporting human rights programming for grassroots organizations to try to catalyze positive change. And it’s operating in more than one hundred countries. So this is something that really covers a lot of ground.

Tenth year that we’ve been involved in this. And what we’re seeing is, as I said, it’s a public-private partnership.  We’re drawing strength and support from like-minded governments around the world—businesses, foundations, a number of other organizations. And that’s been an essential resource that we’ve actually been able to help catalyze and provide, about eighty-three million dollars thus far to amplify and support local efforts. As I alluded to earlier, we’ve also got a number of other programs that are part of our budget, that are in our foreign policy toolkit that go to this. And then more broadly, our efforts to advance across the board human rights, and freedoms, and democracy hopefully have positive effects as well. So it’s a long way of saying we’ve got this effort ongoing in our programs, that are funded in one way or another, and in our day-in, day-out diplomacy that we’ve already talked about.

Jonathan, last thing I’ll say is this: We have over the course of however long we’re in this position, over the course of this administration, both a tremendous opportunity but also an obligation to make sure we’re doing everything we can to advance human rights and democracy more broadly and to support, and advance, and stand strong for LGBTQI rights more specifically. And it’s simple. It’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do. We know from our own experience that the diversity of this country is at the heart of our strength. And so when we’re actually drawing on it here at home, we’re going to be in a much stronger position to advance the same issues, causes, challenges around the world.

And we also know the reason it’s smart, besides being the right thing to do, is that countries that actually act on reflecting their own diversity are likely to be at peace, likely to actually be successful, drawing on the full talents of their societies. And that’s good for us. That’s good for the world. So that’s why this is at the heart of what the president wants to do. It’s a big part of our agenda. But at the end of the day, like with most things, we’ll get judged by results. So we’re committed. We’re focused. We’re determined. And my hope, my expectation, is that over the course of these next few years we’ll actually make progress.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: And with that we’re going to have to leave it there. Antony Blinken, secretary of state, thank you very much for being here and for your—the conversation and your comments on the global importance of protecting and advancing universal human rights, including those of us in the LGBTQI community. I’d also like to thank the Atlantic Council and glifaa for hosting this important event in celebration of Pride Month.

Please join the Atlantic Council at their next AC Front Page event with the Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese this Wednesday, June 23rd, at 8:30 a.m.  And to the audience, thank you for being a part of today’s conversation. Have a good day.

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Image: US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend the EU-US summit in Brussels, Belgium on June 15, 2021. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.