The USA – Leading the Way to Gender Equality


In April this year the Dept. of State of the USA appointed its first ever “Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons”, Mr. Randy W. Berry. Last Friday morning the American Ambassador to Israel, his Excellency Dan Shapiro with his wife Ms. Julie Fisher hosted Mr. Berry at a unique gathering of the movers and shakers of the Israeli lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBTI) at the ambassadorial residence in Herzlia Pituach.


Attendees also included his Excellency Ambassador David Quarrey of the British Embassy (with his partner Mr. Aldo Henriquez), his Excellency Ambassador Werner Romero of the Embassy of El Salvador (with his partner Mr. Roger Atwood), MK. Aliza Lavi (Yesh Atid) and MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), representatives of the US Embassy, representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (including Elad Strohmayer, former Deputy Consul at the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia, where he married his partner Mr. Oren Ben Yosef at a ceremony conducted by the Mayor of Philadelphia), and representatives of various foreign embassies in Israel.


Ambassador Shapiro welcomed the gathering, mentioning that not only is gender equality a stated policy of the present US administration, but also something that he and his wife personally see as crucially important in achieving mutual understanding and tolerance for all communities. “Everyone is equal under the law”, he said, which is why the recent United States Supreme Court ruling that single sex marriages are now legal state-wide in the USA is so important.


This is not the first time that the distinguished American Ambassador and Ms. Fisher have reached out to the Israeli LGBTI community – and to other diplomats in Israel. Their actions speak much louder than any words on human rights, gender equality, civil rights and inclusion could. Their fine example has been followed by several other diplomats, and the staff at salutes their efforts.


Mr. Berry’s words to the audience were electrifying. He spoke briefly of his personal interests (he is married and has two children and wants them to grow up in a better world) and then voiced the State Department’s aims and purpose in creating his position.


“When the United States Declaration of Independence stated that ‘All men are created equal’, that did not include people of color, it did not include women, and it did not include the LGBTI community. The USA has dared to redefine ‘equal’ and the change has been extraordinary.” Mr. Berry pointed out that the previous American military policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was discarded for a more inclusive one only in 1998 (long after Israel’s equality in the military policy). “LGBTI equality are not ‘boutique’ rights, but are at the core of human rights issues”, he said. In his position of Special Envoy he mentioned his efforts to spur US businesses to spread their equality policies internationally, wherever they operate, and to encourage public support for the minorities there, Also his efforts facing, in his words, “communities of faith” (he had arrived in Israel directly after his talks at the Holy See in Rome) to open dialog – essential in the battle to change negative opinions.


After an interesting exchange of ideas with the audience in a questions-and-answers session, a rich buffet offered the opportunity for the guest to mingle and chat.


It’s very clear: USA policy is leading the way to gender equality worldwide.


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