Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. Secretary of State, promised during his confirmation hearings that he would name an envoy for LGBTQI rights and allow U.S. embassies to fly Pride flags, in a reversal of Trump administration policy.
Blinken, a longtime aide to Biden who previously served as national security advisor during his time as vice president and a former staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the comments under questioning from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Markey asked Blinken if he would appoint a special envoy with special expertise in dealing with human rights issues that directly impact the LGBTQ community, and whether he would raise the position of an LGBTQI envoy to an ambassadorial level, to which Blinken responded affirmatively.
“The answer to both questions is yes, absolutely,” Blinken said. “This is a matter of some real urgency. We’ve seen violence directed at LGBTQI people around the world increase, we’ve seen the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of color, that we’ve seen ever, and so I think the United States playing the role it should be playing, in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people, is something the [State] Department is going to take on, and take on immediately.”
Markey also asked if Blinken would “repudiate” the findings of the report issued by the Commission on Inalienable Human Rights and instead adhere to the principles regarding LGBTQI people as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, something to which Blinken also responded affirmatively.
The commission’s report had previously been criticized for adopting an interpretation of international law that prioritizes national-level legislation over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The authors of that report opined that individual nations have “some leeway to base their human rights policy on their own distinctive national traditions,” and that “new rights” need to be tested for consistency with “constitutional principles and moral, political, and legal traditions.” LGBTQI advocates and critics of the commission have noted that such language is often used to refuse to recognize LGBTQI rights under the guise of promoting “religious freedom.”
Markey also asked Blinken if he would grant U.S. embassies abroad leeway to fly rainbow Pride flags to celebrate LGBTQI anniversaries or other occasions, such as Pride Month, something to which Blinken agreed. Under the Trump administration, the State Department adopted a policy allowing the Pride flag to be hung or flown on embassy property, but explicitly refused to allow the flag to fly on embassy flagpoles.
Blinken is expected to garner support from all Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when his nomination is ultimately voted upon. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fierce supporter of former President Donald Trump, indicated that he was open to voting for Blinken.
According to The Washington Post, some other Republicans may be inclined to vote against Blinken’s nomination, on the grounds that the Biden administration’s foreign policy is seen by some as a return to the policies advanced by the Obama administration. Other Republicans may balk at Blinken’s refusal, under questioning from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), to agree to consult with Congress before moving forward with any major policy decisions, such as the Iran nuclear deal.
Instead, Blinken promised that the Biden administration would attempt to engage in “genuine consultations” with lawmakers, but did not agree to run all decisions regarding the United States’ entrance into various international agreements past Congress.
“There are sometimes good reasons, in fact, reasons that advance our national security, for why a treaty is not advisable,” Blinken told Barrasso. “So I think we have to look at this on a case-by-case basis.”
The Carroll County School Board has voted to ban the display of Pride flags as part of its policy requiring employees to remain neutral about "political issues, parties, and candidates."
In a 4-1 vote, the board of the Republican-leaning county, located just west of Baltimore, approved the ban, which will prohibit Pride flags from being hung, displayed, or distributed on school properties in the district.
Board member Patricia Dorsey was the lone vote against the policy, although Student Representative Emilie Tedeschi also expressed opposition to the policy.
Going forward, the school board policy will prohibit all flags on school property except for: the U.S. flag, the Maryland state flag, the Carroll County flag, flags used as part of a temporary unit of study within approved curriculum, and flags or banners recognizing achievements of students or sports teams (which must be pre-approved by the superintendent). The policy will allow flags representing "the many nations of the World" if they are displayed in a common area as part of a multi-national display, for example, but all flags used must be smaller and less prominent than any American flag on display at the school, reports Baltimore-based Fox affiliate WBFF.
The U.S. Department of Education announced a proposed rule impacting how Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination "on the basis of sex," will be enforced -- including protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination -- in schools and colleges that receive federal funding.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the changes to the way the law is enforced on Thursday, which marked the 50th anniversary of passage of the landmark law. Under Title IX, schools can be denied federal funds if they are found guilty of discrimination, excluding individuals from certain benefits or activities, or allowing harassment to continue without disciplining perpetrators.
South Dakota's Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is threatening to sue the U.S. government if it attempts to enforce a new policy that would cut funding for federal lunch programs from schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it would interpret prohibitions on sex discrimination contained in Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 as applying to instances where individuals are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In terms of Title IX, and educational environments, adopting that interpretation means that schools that receive federal funds from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service must investigate allegations of discrimination against students based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
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