Los Angeles Vanguard Weekly Blog

An Open Letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, as a member of the Global Equality Council, signed onto a letter that was sent to our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The letter calls on the Secretary to immediately take all steps within his power to stop the atrocious abuses happening to LGBT Chechens. Further, we call on this administration to once again promote human rights as one of our countries fundamental values with the clear understanding "that the values we express as a nation are core not only to our identity but to what we aspire to achieve in this world."


June 30, 20 17

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington , DC 2052 1

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

As members of the Council for Global Equality, we write to express outrage at this Administration's continued denigration of the value that the United States traditionally has placed on human and democratic rights in the conduct of U.S. diplomacy.

For decades, U.S. diplomacy has recognized the preservation and advancement of human and democratic rights as an essential element of our country's national interests. We recognize , of course, that at times U.S. actions have not fully respected this understanding in practice. That said, the human rights pledges and aspirations voiced by the United States have set the country apart in the pursuit of a better world .

In this context, we were both perplexed and concerned at comments made to State Department employees last month, in which you suggested that the country's fundamental values can be separated from the foreign policies the U.S. stands for and pursues. That separation is, in our view, unwise if the United States is to remain true to its calling.

But we were truly taken aback in learning, through your budget testimony, that you have yet to raise with your Russian counterpart, or indeed at any senior leadership level, U.S. concern over the ongoing kidnappings, torture and murders of those suspected of being gay, lesbian or bisexual by Chechen officials.

To be clear, we place this neglect of values and responsibility not solely at your doorstep, but also at that of President Trump. Neither you nor the President has voiced clear recognition of the importance of human rights as a matter of U.S. policy. Neither has spoken out against specific human rights infringements during your terms of office to date, and neither attached personal concern to, or otherwise endorsed, the conclusions of this year's human rights reports. To the contrary, the Administration 's embrace of a range of dictators, from Russian President Putin to Egyptian President Sissi, sends a clear signal that the U.S. is no longer the beacon of hope that has inspired generations around the world.

As a coalition of organizations seeking an end to the injustices, torture and discrimination endured by LGBT people in many countries around the world, we see in our daily work the importance of elevating, not spurning, human and democratic values. And yet beyond the visible distance, described above, this Administration has placed between it and any human rights embrace, it also has proposed audaciously
sharp reductions in the budget needed to support any range of human rights and rule of law priorities , humanitarian and refugee assistance, and preventive health programs impacting women and minority populations.

We believe this to be shortsighted and unwise, and out of keeping with America's character and interests. To be clear, countries that respect human and democratic rights of all, including their minority populations, tend to be America 's best political and economic partners. They tend to have stable civil societies leading to geo-political security compared to countries where rights are neglected. In the long run, they are the best guarantors of regional stability.

We urge you to raise immediately, and with overdue stress, the need for Russia to investigate these atrocities, and that you explore all tools at your disposal to protect victims and curtail ongoing persecution that Chechen officials might continue to carry out against Russia's LGBT citizenry. We urge, too, that you aggressively pursue refugee resettlement options for those who already have been victimized . Finally, we urge that you and the President demonstrate, in your statements and policies , that the values we express as a nation are core not only to our identity but to what we aspire to achieve in the world.

Sincerely,

Published July 07, 2017

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