Madame Secretary

“Gay rights are human rights.” With that declaration — and the team she has assembled at the State Department — Hillary Rodham Clinton has elevated the dialogue on LGBT rights around the globe.

BY Kerry Eleveld

January 10 2011 4:00 AM ET

1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COM

 Not everything where LGBT rights are concerned has gone perfectly at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. A U.N. vote last November removed “sexual orientation” from a resolution condemning executions on a variety of discriminatory grounds. Advocates said administration officials should have seen the vote coming and disrupted the group of African countries that banded together to push it through. But the setback was quickly erased by a successful December vote that reversed the ruling.

HIV/AIDS activists have railed against the administration’s PEPFAR funding levels, which in 2010 fell far short of Obama’s promises during the campaign to provide at least $50 billion by 2013—which would have necessitated an increase of about $1 billion each year. But a new plan of providing $63 billion over six years for a broader global health initiative in which 70% of the funding is dedicated to HIV/AIDS now appears to have set the administration on course to reach Obama’s campaign pledge by 2014, albeit a year late.

And an internal effort to designate a specific person as an LGBT policy adviser failed based on disagreements about such a position’s overall efficacy.

But here’s what has become objectively clear: It’s not necessary to have such an adviser when people like Clinton and Mills are thoroughly conversant on the issue— constantly leaning into it rather than away and empowering those below them to help change the culture.

I made one interview request to the secretary’s office, and after a short vetting process, it was granted. Clinton’s communications staff also set up more than a handful of interviews with high-ranking officials and gay people serving in the department in order to illuminate their internal policy making regarding LGBT rights.

Clinton also kept a commitment to discuss her department’s LGBT advances at a time when most people in her position might have understandably tabled the interview. “I just really have a strong negative reaction to prejudice, discrimination, hatred, violence—anything that tries to delegitimize or marginalize any of our fellow human beings,” she says. “So it fits into my long-term and personally felt commitment to expanding the circle of human rights for everyone."

On the next page, see Secretary Clinton in action.

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