President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be America’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, vowed on Tuesday to swiftly appoint an LGBTI envoy, allow embassies to fly the pride flag and formally repudiate the findings of the controversial “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” among other steps that would reverse policies enacted by outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
While the position of special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons was left vacant under the Trump administration, Blinken said Tuesday that appointing someone to the role is “a matter, I think, of some real urgency.”
“We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase. We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of color, that we’ve seen ever,” Blinken said during his Senate confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“And so I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the Department is going to take on and take on immediately.”
Blinken also vowed to allow US embassies to fly the pride flag.
In confirmation hearing, secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken says he will appoint LBGTI envoy, pledges U.S. embassies will be able to fly Pride flag. https://t.co/L05zF6mtJH pic.twitter.com/inpO6eX3xG
— ABC News (@ABC) January 19, 2021
CNN reported in 2019 that multiple US embassies had been denied permission by the Trump administration to fly the rainbow flag to commemorate LBGTQ Pride Month.
Blinken also said if he is confirmed he would appoint a chief diversity officer to help oversee — and ensure — that the State Department has “a workforce that looks like the country it represents.”
Blinken said “a significant measure of whether I have succeeded or failed” as secretary of state would be whether the department had adopted new approaches to recruit and keep a more diverse workforce that draws diplomats from a wider range of American society than it traditionally has.
Blinken said that a diversity officer would be tasked with making sure the department met certain benchmarks to implement new recruitment and retention processes and that its leaders — including himself — would be accountable to both the department staff and Congress to make sure they see through new commitments to improving diversity. He also suggested that paid internships could be part of the program to bring in new diplomatic talent from underrepresented communities.
He also committed to repudiating the findings of Pompeo’s keystone initiative, The Commission on Unalienable Rights, which contended in its report that some rights were not worth defending.
CNN notes: “The Trump administration for years has reversed, dropped, removed and withdrawn established LGBTQI protections and has been particularly hostile toward transgender Americans. Among its most criticized moves was an effort last year to roll back an Obama-era regulation prohibiting discrimination in health care against patients who are transgender. A federal judge blocked the repeal over the summer, ruling it had violated a recent Supreme Court decision.”