Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of LGBT civil servants Wednesday at an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies), a group which represents LGBT employees in the U.S. State Department.
Clinton began by conjuring what life was like for LGBT individuals before the organization was founded. ”In 1992, you could be fired for being gay,” she told a crowd of gay State Department employees. “Just think about all of the exceptional public servants, the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what our country lost because we were unable to take advantage of their hard work, expertise, and experience.”
She went on to trace the steps that have been made toward greater equality in civil service and the State Department in particular. In many of these steps Clinton herself played an integral part.
Among the first things Clinton did as secretary of state was to extend diplomatic benefits and protections to domestic partners. Before this action, spouses of diplomats received benefits such as diplomatic passports, paid airfare, and expenses-paid shipment of household effects, but domestic partners did not. In early 2009, Clinton issued an order “ensuring that same-sex domestic partners receive the maximum benefits” that State could undertake.
On Wednesday, Clinton pressed not only the issue of equality, but also the quality of work generated from employees who are not afraid to be themselves:
“We are simply more effective,” Clinton said, “when we create an environment that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work, when they don’t have to hide a core part of who they are, when we recognize and reward people for the quality of their work instead of dismissing their contributions because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
She concluded her speech with a further call to action:
“Remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life…I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do–those who are currently serving in our government, those who have served in the past, and those who I hope will decide to serve–to make not only the agencies of our government but our world more just and free for all people.”