(WB) The cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Germany has applauded the German government’s efforts to welcome Ukrainians who have sought refuge in the country.
“The German government and the municipalities and the 16 states have been extremely welcoming of Ukrainian refugees in Germany,” Cherrie Daniels told the Washington Blade on July 22 during a virtual interview from the embassy in Berlin.
More than 900,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Germany since the war began on Feb. 24.
Ukrainians are able to enter Germany without a visa.
The German government provides those who have registered for residency a “basic income” that helps them pay for housing and other basic needs including food. Ukrainian refugees can also receive access to German language classes, job training programs and childcare.
Dmitry Shapoval, a 24-year-old gay man from Ukraine who lives with HIV, is among the LGBTQ and intersex Ukrainians who have found refuge in Berlin. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Refuge has partnered with Airbnb.org and Alight (formerly known as the American Refugee Committee), to provide short-term and more permanent housing to Shapoval and other LGBTQ and intersex Ukrainians and other displaced people in Germany and other countries in Europe.
Ukrainians, Russians, Iranians, Syrians, Algerians, Ghanaians and people from more than a dozen other countries attended a roundtable on LGBTQ and intersex refugees the embassy co-hosted with the Canadian Embassy in Germany on July 19. ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth and representatives of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association, Queer Refugees Deutschland, Human Rights Watch, Quarteera and Miles also participated.
“We can and must promote the protection of vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers,” said U.S. Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann. “These people are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and we can and we must respond to human rights abuses. And we can and we must engage international organizations on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
Daniels said one of the issues roundtable participants discussed was “making sure that asylees get appropriate legal counseling before their asylum hearing.”
“Every country, including the United States and Germany, could do better,” she told the Blade.
Daniels added the roundtable’s overall goal was “to listen to what [participants’] challenges are in the countries they come from.”
“Our job is to listen to what those challenges are and see what our embassies in those regions or what the State Department at large in the White House can do to support their additional inclusion and equal rights for them,” she said.
Daniels spoke with the Blade a day before Berlin’s annual Christopher Street Day parade took place.
The embassy, which is adjacent to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, was flying several Progress Pride flags in the days leading up to the parade. The canopy over the embassy’s main entrance was also adorned in rainbow colors.
The embassy — along with the U.S. Consulates in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Hamburg and Munich — on July 6 hosted a discussion about LGBTQ and intersex issues in sports. Former Washington Spirit player Joanna Lohman, Portland Thorns coach Nadine Angerer and former German soccer player Marcus Urban participated.
Lohman is a lesbian, while Angerer and Urban are openly bisexual and gay respectively.
The embassy has also launched “UnterFreunden,” a podcast that highlights LGBTQ and intersex issues.
“What we wanted to assure is that we don’t only celebrate Pride during Pride Month, in June or July in Germany,” Jesse George, the embassy’s public diplomacy and media advisor, told the Blade during the interview with Daniels. “So we are amplifying and doing outreach regarding the LGBTQI+ community all year long.”
President Joe Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House in the same year named Jessica Stern, who was previously the executive director of OutRight Action International, as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad.
The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. Stern during an exclusive interview with the Blade ahead of Pride Month noted the Biden administration’s continued support of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad also includes marriage equality in counties where activists say it is possible through legislative or judicial processes.
“When together we stand up for LGBTQI+ persons, we stand up for the work of building a country and a world where everyone belongs and everyone’s rights are respected, no matter who they are or who they love,” said Gutmann during the July 19 reception.
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 struck down Roe v. Wade.
Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurrent opinion said the Supreme Court should reconsider the decisions in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify marriage equality into federal law, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last month with 47 Republicans voting in favor of it. The bill needs 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to overcome a potential filibuster.
Daniels said the Roe ruling is “definitely” on the minds of LGBTQ and intersex activists in Germany and “on our mind.”
“What we can do as an administration is to stand in solidarity with those marginalized communities and, of course, for women’s and girls’ rights and for reproductive rights globally,” she said. “That is something we can do as a State Department, as a foreign policy agency.”
Richard Grenell represented U.S. in Berlin from 2018-2020
Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, represented the U.S. in Berlin from 2018-2020.
The previous administration tapped Grenell to lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Blade last August filed a lawsuit against the State Department in federal court in D.C. that seeks Grenell’s emails about the initiative.
The embassy during Grenell’s ambassadorship hosted a group of LGBTQ and intersex rights activists from around the world. Grenell and then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft in 2019 organized an event on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council meeting that focused on decriminalization efforts around the world.
Grenell, among other things, faced condemnation from politicians in Germany who accused him of supporting far-right politicians and attempting to interfere in German politics. Advocacy groups in the U.S. and around the world also sharply criticized Grenell over his outspoken support of then-President Donald Trump.
“People had been invited to the embassy in that period for certain public events,” said Daniels when the Blade asked her about Grenell’s tenure in Berlin. “Now having our doors wide open and showing this inclusive face of the United States, you know, I’ll let other people draw that contrast.”
“in these four walls so to speak, we’re hearing, we’re listening and steering to the extent we can, sharing our policies and programs in a way that will address how can we improve that message of inclusion and of equal rights as LGBTQ rights or human rights,” added Daniels. “It’s not some niche issue. It’s mainstreamed into all of our policies.”
Daniels further stressed “that’s a difference that you’re going to see.”
“Again, it’s not flying the flag on Pride Month, although that’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s fighting for those rights, and all of our programs and all of our outreach and ensuring that that’s human rights. It’s not something that’s just for a particular, you know, trying to show that we do it. I think people can feel that inclusion when they’re in the company of this embassy.”
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