As Hillary Clinton readies to leave the State Department, she leaves behind a legacy of hope for the international LGBT community.
Can we expect equally good things from her replacement, John Kerry?
The signs say yes, actually: Kerry, who was officially announced as Obama’s choice for Secretary of State on Friday, has a strong pro-gay record in the Senate.
Most recently, he’s called for immigration reform to prevent the deportation of illegal alien same-sex partners before his name was even floated for a cabinet slot. In a letter sent to the Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of Homeland Security in May, Kerry joined 16 other representatives in asking for the deportation of foreigners in same-sex binational relationships to be stayed until Congress has voted on the repeal of DOMA.
We write to you to reiterate our request that the Administration provide relief for lesbian and gay families in which one spouse is not a U.S. citizen during this time of legal uncertainty…
With marriage equality rights being extended to more and more citizens of this country, and with the Department of Justice’s repudiation of DOMA, we are concerned with the toll the continued denial of I-130 applications for same-sex immigrant spouses is exacting on families in this country. Denials of these applications have caused extreme hardship for many legally married couples, forcing them to choose between leaving the country or breaking the law.
We are appreciative that in the response to our letter, the Departments agreed to look at cases affected by DOMA on a case-by-case basis based on the individual circumstances. We are concerned that this policy is not currently being exercised at all levels of DHS and DOJ based on anecdotal reports. We are unaware of any application being held in abeyance following a case-by-case review…
We remain committed to ensuring that family unity continues to be protected in American immigration law and we look forward to your response. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
In April 2011, he was also the lead signer in letter praising President Obama’s decision to stop defending DOMA in federal court. But those are hardly his greatest hits:
* Was an original sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act
* Co-sponsored the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, the largest federal budget investment toward treating HIV/AIDS.
* Was one of 14 Senators, and the only one up for reelection in 1996, that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.
* Kerry opposed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when it was enacted, and testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that President Clinton schould rescind the ban on openly gay servicemembers.
*Introduced the HIV Nondiscrimination in Travel and Immigration Act, which reversed U.S. policy banning HIV-positive foreigners from entering the country.
* Supports the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, as well as legislation providing equal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.
* Kerry dragged his feet on marriage equality, but came around eventually: “Many of us who once believed civil unions were sufficient to protect legal rights because we thought of marriage as a religious sacrament between a man and a woman, have seen that no church has been forced to do anything that contradicts its teachings,” he said in an 2011 op-ed. “But when two committed people apply for a Massachusetts marriage license, they are equal whether they are gay or straight. It’s not about a word— it’s about equality under the law.”
“Sen. Kerry has been a trailblazer in the fight for LGBT equality, both domestically and internationally. His leadership in repealing the HIV travel ban, as well as his steadfast support for employment non-discrimination protections and addressing the needs LGBT homeless youth demonstrate his dedication to equality and to the rights of LGBT people worldwide.
“The State Department’s unwavering commitment to LGBT people around the world under the leadership of Secretary Clinton has been exemplary. We look forward to even more progress, including growth of the Global Equality Fund and continued support for the human rights of LGBT people, as Sen. Kerry takes the helm.”
What do you think, Queerty readers? Are we in good hands at State?