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USAID Nominee Pledges Support for LGBTQ Human Rights

In a hearing before a U.S. Senate committee, Ambassador Mark Green, the nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), pledged that, if confirmed, he would work to ensure that USAID’s programming reaches vulnerable LGBTQ people around the world.

Ambassador Green (not to be confused with the anti-LGBTQ Mark Green who was forced to withdraw his nomination as Army Secretary) was nominated to lead USAID, America’s largest provider of global development assistance, investing nearly $16 billion in foreign aid each year in more than 100 countries.

Green hails from Wisconsin and has served as a member of Congress and as U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. He now serves as the president of the International Republican Institute, a non-profit that supports the development of democratic institutions around the globe.

On June 15, Green appeared  before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his nomination hearing to be USAID Administrator, and was introduced by three fellow Wisconsinites, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson and the Senate’s only openly LGBTQ member, Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a longtime champion of LGBTQ rights and lead sponsor of the Global Respect Act, asked Green how he would handle countries that are harming LGBTQ people.

“We need to make sure that our programming reaches all marginalized communities, and in many parts of the world LGBT marginalized communities,” he said. “Violence and discrimination targeting any vulnerable group undermines our collective security as well as our American values….No country can rise if it is discriminating against any marginalized community.  No country can be a vibrant democracy if it isn’t listening to all of its voices.”

Just days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told another Congressional committee that he has not raised the atrocities in Chechnya with his Russian counterparts even once, Green’s response was welcome news.

If confirmed, Green will be tasked with carrying out USAID’s policy that prohibits any discrimination against LGBTQ people in the conduct of USAID programs. USAID was the first U.S. agency to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination abroad, which has not been replicated in other agencies. He will also face extraordinary challenges, since USAID is facing steep budget cuts in the administration’s FY2018 budget proposal, many of which will harm LGBTQ people abroad who depend on U.S. funding of health and human rights programs.