by Kevin Jones | In considering our progress toward achieving equality that fully includes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, we often focus first on headline federal legislation. Enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, and the repeals of the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are all milestones that mark the way forward in this country. The success of those initiatives is vital.
Lobbying for equal rights through legislation, however, barely scratches the surface of the ways in which significant progress is happening – and the immense opportunity for us to make meaningful change. We have seen many specific ways in which administrative policy changes in healthcare, housing, and foreign affairs have resulted in more equitable treatment by governmental agencies of LGBT people and our relationships.
On Monday evening, Out & Equal hosted a meeting with Dr. Claire Lucas, the Senior Advisor for Public-Private Partnerships and the Acting Director of the Private Sector Alliances Division at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and prominent leader and activist Urvashi Vaid. The meeting was to discuss an initiative at USAID that will channel development funds toward projects that specifically include LGBT communities internationally. There is no legislation involved in this program – just a commitment by the current Administration (and Secretary Clinton in particular) to ensure that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is specifically able to access development funding from the US government.
The potential impact on the global LGBT community of this seemingly simple shift toward inclusion is potentially enormous. In 2010, the United States provided $30 billion in overseas development assistance. Thirty billion. That is 75 times the total estimated amount from all global private and governmental funders of LGBT rights internationally. Imagine if some small piece of that amount was combined with private sector donations and directed towards development projects designed to assist the international LGBT community. That is exactly what Acting Director Lucas and USAID is imagining.
We already know that discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are significant human rights issues in many parts of the world. They are also development issues, squarely within the mission of USAID. Members of the LGBT community are regularly denied access to economic opportunity, training, and other essential resources. Funding development projects that consider the impact on the LGBT community will start to change that.
Using private-public partnerships sponsored by USAID will make it possible for corporations – many of whom are already engaged with USAID through funding and in-kind contributions – to ensure that their international development support includes the LGBT community, in full alignment with their global inclusion and diversity policies.
I look to our corporate leaders to support Dr. Lucas and USAID as this important initiative comes to fruition; feel free to contact me for more information.