Sunday, April 29, 2012

State Dept's Human Rights Report
was Due on Feb 25: Why the Delay?

Back in April of 1991 when George H.W. Bush was still president, I was one of three activists to meet with Tom Williams at the State Department about the annual global human rights report for the previous year that he was responsible for writing. Margaret Cantrell, Barrett Brick and I sat down with Williams to thank him for one gay citation and a separate AIDS citation, both mentioned in the section on Denmark.

We urged Williams and the department to include additional such citations in the future and provided him with a year's worth of foreign LGBT and HIV reporting by reporter Rex Wockner, because he welcomed such evidence that could lead to expanded inclusion of our concerns in future reports.

Since that time, because of the commitment of many State Department staffers and activists in the United States and around the world, regardless of who's been president, the annual human rights reports have grown to regularly reference hundreds of advances and setbacks for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV positive people. Frequently, when the reports are published, the LGBT and HIV citations generate news domestically and abroad bringing additional much-needed visibility.

These reports are required as part the Foreign Assistance Act which mandates that the survey be provided to the U.S. Congress by February 25.

For some reason, under President Obama and Secretary Clinton, the release date for the reports is not at all consistent and for the past two-years the State Department has missed the February 25 deadline. The 2010 survey came out in April, the 2009 edition was available in March, whereas the 2008 survey was published on February 25.

Over all, Obama and Clinton along with analysts and staffers in the State Department's human rights bureau and numerous ambassadors and embassy officials, have offered tremendously frank and effective advocacy and visibility regarding gay and AIDS human rights matters.

Whatever the reasons for the delay of publishing the 2011 report, it behooves all human rights groups and advocates to push the Obama administration to immediately release latest report and to explain their tardiness in violation of federal law.

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