LiveAtState: Senior Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs Paula Uribe on LGBT Pride Month

Washington, DC
June 26, 2012

**This is an English translation of this "State Department Live" interview, which was held in Spanish. Please see the original Spanish transcript at // **

MR. OSTICK: Good morning, my name is William Ostick, Spokesperson for Department of State Western Hemisphere Affairs; I welcome you today to Live State. This is a new interactive space, a video platform to communicate with international media. Our topic today relates to the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community, and the LGBT Pride Month that just took place. If you want to participate, you can send your questions via Twitter, using #AskUSA. Today, with us is Paula Uribe, Senior Advisor at the Department of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Welcome Paula.

MS. URIBE: Thank you, Will.

MR. OSTICK: Our participants are welcome to send their questions; please use the lower part of your screen where you can see the "questions" title. We welcome your questions and we will try to answer as many as possible within the time that we have available. We also invite you to browse our Twitter @USAenEspanol. We have about 20 minutes. Let's start with some words from Paula Uribe. Paula?

MS. URIBE: Good morning. Thank you for being with us today. We want to speak with you about the rights of the LGBT community, and we are doing this to celebrate Gay Pride month. Thank you, and I think that we can start with questions.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you Paula. Please use the lower part of your screen to start sending your questions. Paula, could you start explaining why Gay Pride Month is celebrated?

MS. URIBE: Gay Pride Month is an event that is celebrated in the month of June, commemorating the riots that happened at Stonewall, a bar in New York, where a police raid took place and the gay community decided that it was time to fight for its rights as citizens of this country.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you. We have a question here from Federico Ruiz Mora; I think it comes from Colombia. "What priority does the United States Government place on LGBT organizations in Colombia and Latin America?"

MS. URIBE: For us, it is very important that organizations advocating for the rights of the LGBT community are empowered and that they have the capacity to fight for its rights within their own countries and around the world.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much. "And what is the Department of State doing to promote the rights of the LGBT community?"

MS. URIBE: We are doing many things to promote the rights of the LGBT community. Obviously, this is a mandate that comes from above. It comes from our president and Secretary Clinton, in which, we as a government, believe that human rights are fundamental; respect for human rights is fundamental and all citizens must have these rights, and they must be respected by all governments and their citizens. To achieve this protection for the LGBT community, we are carrying out bilateral talks with other governments. We promote agreements in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States, OAS. We also communicate with NGOs across the world to monitor how people are being treated, and I think this is just part of what we do, because we do a lot more. Empowering, we help with skills, training people at NGOs, training police, training judges and prosecutors to implement respect for all citizens.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much. Let me remind all participants that you can send in your questions via e-mail to, spelled with a small v, or you can use the participation screen, under questions. Also, send in your questions via #AskUSA. Paula, recently, some decisions were made in the United States favoring gay marriages. What is the position of the United States towards homosexual marriage around the world?

MS. URIBE: What we want is protection for basic human rights. We believe that each country has its own laws and each country must decide on the laws they have. Obviously, we have states where gay marriage has been approved and our president has been very clear that equality is something very important and that all citizens should have it. In any case, the United States Government does not yet have a unified position. This will be voted on at some point in time, but at this time, only eight states of the union have gay marriage.

MR. OSTICK: We have a question here from Mexico; Judith Garcia, from El Sol de Mexico newspaper is asking us: "Countries where human rights for LGBT organizations are violated the most; and another question: “And what has been the position of the government when dealing with crimes related to different sexual preferences? Are the cases investigated, or are they just filed?"

MS. URIBE: Well, this… In the Western Hemisphere region, the situation is mixed. Anyway, there are many cases where the human rights of people belonging to the LGBT community are violated more than others. We have countries in this region that still consider it a crime to be an adult and have an adult homosexual relationship. These, in particular are the English-speaking Caribbean countries. There are eleven countries that have these laws. In Latin American countries where these laws which criminalize this behavior do not exist, there still are socio-cultural attitudes that promote violence and discrimination against the LGBT community. Obviously, in many cases, crimes against people in this community may not be filed sometimes or they take a long time to solve, and sometimes, these crimes are not properly accounted for, and there is not much willingness to investigate them.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you Paula. Let me remind participants that can send in your questions via Twitter. You can follow us on Twitter at #AskUSA. We have another question here from Federico Ruiz Mora from Colombia: "Rights violations against LGBT population are very pronounced. How is the State Department mediating with the Colombian government to prevent and reduce these right violations?"

MS. URIBE: Well, we have several instruments. We publish an annual report on human rights including a section that shows these crimes - human rights violations related to sexual orientation and gender identity. This is one of the items which are published annually, and it forces states to be more aware about what is happening in those countries. With the Colombian Government, we always, as with all governments, have discussions as allies. We have always stated that our country also does not have a perfect situation, but we are trying to do something about it, and we would like other countries to also have responsibility regarding the facts affecting this community, and to carry out campaigns to prevent violence, bullying and discrimination against any citizen. But when we have discussions regarding the LGBT community, obviously, it is done with the LGBT community in mind.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you. And a question [INAUDIBLE] little; is from Zayuri Tivaduisa from Colombia again. "What projects are we working on with the Colombian government and what type of follow up will be carried out?"

MS. URIBE: We… Thank you very much for the question; we have a lot of projects to support the Colombian Government; we have training for judges, for prosecutors, as I said before. We are working a lot with police and obviously, protection for all citizens is very important to us and this includes the LGBT community.

MR. OSTICK: Very well. A question now from Mexico, from Enrique Torres Molina. A little… a domestic matter, but… "During the Obama administration, the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy was abolished. Equal marriage was established in New York and Obama himself declared his support for this right. What will happen in the following administration? What are the next steps that the Federal Government will take on matters related to LGBT rights?

MS. URIBE: At this time, we do not know what may happen. This depends on who wins the elections in November. Obviously, if President Obama is reelected, I believe he will continue ourpolicies to promote the rights of the LGBT community. For him, it is very important that all citizens in this country enjoy equal rights, that everyone enjoy the same rights, and I believe if he's reelected, this will be a priority for the Obama Administration.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much; and here from Federico Ruiz Mora, again. "This annual report, is it public? And, where is it available?"

MS. URIBE: Yes. The annual report is available to the public. It describes all types of violations against people, including freedom of expression, violations against human rights related to gender issues, torture, etc. And it is a public report; you can find it at, spelled with a small ‘v’.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much. And does the United States condition its aid on respect for LGBT rights?

MS. URIBE: Actually, this is not the case. We... this was a misunderstanding that occurred after some declarations in December from Secretary Clinton and from President Obama; we sent a memo to all agencies operating overseas, and it is not the case. We do condition our aid, if needed, when there are human right violations in general. If a government violates human rights systematically, we evaluate, our Congress evaluates whether aid is given to a government or not.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much. And what plans do we have to promote rights in the immediate future?

MS. URIBE: We will continue with the plans that we have at this time; which is to train NGOs, civil society. We believe they have the right to fight for the rights in their countries. We will continue to insist on the protection of human rights for the LGBT community through multilateral organizations such as the OAS, the United Nations, and will continue holding bilateral talks with governments, asking them to do everything in their power so that the LG BT community benefits from equal rights and is protected from violence, discrimination, and all other types of violations of their rights.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much. Let me remind again that you can participate via Twitter, using #AskUSA, #AskUSA. Now we have an incoming question from Luis Garcia from El Sol de Mexico: "Which are the most of violated rights against the LGBT community?"

MS. URIBE: Well, actually the right to life is one of the rights that is violated the most against the LGBT community. The right to expression, the right to personal safety. In general, these are their rights that are violated the most; the right to a dignified life, to work and education.

MR. OSTICK: And how is the judicial framework for LGBT across the hemisphere? Which other countries have laws that support the rights of the LGBT communities?

MS. URIBE: Well, there are many countries and they are growing little by little; countries that have, that are creating laws to protect LGBT communities. There are countries, such as Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina. Chile is now promoting an antidiscrimination law. Colombia has an antidiscrimination law that was signed recently by the president, where sexual orientation and gender identity are issues protected by these antidiscrimination laws. Brazil is also leaning towards this path, but actually, there is a lot left to do in this hemisphere to protect the LGBT community. And compliance with law is also an issue for the authorities.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much. And, what can our participants do to create awareness… [laughter], this is a hard word for me to say… Please tell me the word…

MS. URIBE: Yes, create awareness…

MR. OSTICK: What can they do to try to participate?

MS. URIBE: Well, I think it is very important that community members be aware of their rights, of what their rights are within international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights places great importance on rights for all citizens without any exception. And they must know what these are. They need to learn a little about their rights within their domestic law, local laws in their countries, and see how they can ask for these rights to be respected.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you, and Federico Ruiz Mora asks what are the strategies implemented in the United States to prevent bullying.

MS. URIBE: We have a lot of strategies. This is a serious problem affecting us all. But every day there is more awareness about this problem, on how to prevent it. There are awareness campaigns, where even the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, many celebrities have come out. There are some videos called "It gets better," and they speak about how serious bullying is and how to avoid it. Besides these campaigns in schools, there is much more attention on this and this is considered a very serious issue. It used to be that bullying was something like… people would take it as something inherent to human beings. This is not the case nowadays. People now know that bullying is a very serious issue and that it must be prevented because it is causing very serious problems. For example, suicides are up among the teenage population, which is a very vulnerable population here in the United States. Teenage suicide levels have increased substantially, and in particular, in the LGBT community.

MR. OSTICK: Thank you very much Paula.

MS. URIBE: Thank you.

MR. OSTICK: Unfortunately, our scheduled time is coming to an end. I thank the 14 attendees for their participation, and our Embassy in La Paz. And on behalf of Live State, I thank you all and I bid you greetings from Washington. Good day and until the next time.