The Washington Post

Career diplomat discusses gay rights in foreign service

Richard Hoagland  meets with a Pakistani delegation while serving as deputy U.S. ambassador in Islamabad in 2012.(Aamir Qureshi/ AFP/GettyImages)

Former U.S. ambassador Richard Hoagland, a career foreign service officer, spoke candidly at a gay pride conference this week about the difficulties gay diplomats faced in the not-so-distant past.

Hoagland recalled a time in the 1990s when his security clearance was taking a long time to be renewed, and he suspected it could have to do with concerns about him being gay. He went to the head of diplomatic security and threatened, “You have no reason to deny my security clearance. I want it on my desk in one week, or I’m going to The Washington Post.”

(Not jumping to conclusions about where specifically he would have taken his grievances, but The Loop did start in 1993.)

Hoagland, currently the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, discussed global human rights issues facing LGBT people during a speech at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Where just 14 years ago it was considered “radical” to include the LGBT community in the larger conversation about human rights atrocities around the world, now it is a major part of the State Department’s platform, he said.

Still, Hoagland cautioned that the work of U.S. diplomats to promote gay rights abroad must continue, citing the U.S. government’s monitoring of the treatment of gay individuals in Uganda, Russia and India.

“This is an unfortunate truth: With about 80 countries worldwide criminalizing homosexuality, LGBT persons around the world remain vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, harassment, discrimination and violence,” Hoagland said. “Even today, five countries still define homosexuality as a crime punishable by death.”

Hoagland, who was U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and then Tajikistan, was a founding members of the State Department’s GLIFAA, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, according to an agency official.

As deputy ambassador in Pakistan, he spurred a significant controversy when he held the first LGBT pride celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in 2011.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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