Ambassador Sands’ remarks at the 2018 Pride Reception

Ambassador Sands delivering remarks at the 2018 Pride reception. Photo: State Dept.

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome. I’m joined here by my fellow hosts – the Ambassador of Australia, the Charge d’Affaires from Canada, and the Deputy Head of Mission of the UK, because we all share a common goal: to advance the equal rights and human rights of LGBTI persons. And I know we share that goal with all of you gathered here today.

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the media about this reception and whether or not LGBTI organizations and individuals should attend. Let me say that while we are disappointed that some members of the community have declined to be with us here today, we remain open to dialogue and partnership.

We have developed over the years a close and cooperative relationship with the community, including just last year when we partnered with local groups to fund programs highlighting the unique challenges of transgender persons and the sexism that exists within the broader LGBTI community. Support for Pride has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of our engagement.

While Pride is definitely a festive occasion where we can all celebrate being who we are as individuals, and the notable advancements in achieving equality and human rights protections, there is still much work to be done.

The United States remains engaged in the fight for equal rights and equal opportunity.  Alongside many of the partners assembled here today, we are members of the Global Equality Fund – a public-private partnership built on a shared commitment to advancing freedom, equality, and dignity for all and working to promote the inclusion of and respect for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

The United States fully supports the efforts of the Equal Rights Coalition, chaired by Canada and Chile, which provides the primary government-led platform to share information and undertake collective action in response to attacks, violence, and harassment targeting LGBTI persons.

Thanks to the generosity of the American people, the United States is proud to remain the largest donor to global HIV/AIDS efforts in the world.  Our leadership and investments have not only helped change the course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which disproportionately affects segments of the LGBTI community, but also ensured HIV programs are having the greatest possible impact with every dollar.

PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, recently announced several African countries are now on pace to reach HIV epidemic control by the year 2020 with U.S. Government support.

The Preamble of the American Constitution begins with “We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”  It is seeking that perfection that makes us American.  We, like every other nation on Earth, are not perfect, and for every historical advancement in social equality, whether for women, African Americans, or our LBTI family, there have been at times setbacks.  And that’s why we must continue to remain engaged and work together – as government, business, the arts, education, and civil society – to ensure the overall pursuit of equality and justice trends upward.

Whether for Pride Month, Spirit Day, National Coming Out Day, Intersex Awareness Day, or Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States has spoken out in strong support of the liberty, dignity, and the human rights of LGBTI persons worldwide.  As Americans, we place a high value on these rights and freedoms, which all persons deserve to enjoy fully and equally.

With that, I’d like to turn it over to Ambassador Miller and would like to wish all of you a safe and Happy Pride!