Former U.S. Ambassador’s Remarks at Tel-Aviv’s Pride Parade

Thank you for that kind introduction, Tzipi.  And thank you Mayor Huldai for the invitation to speak at this year’s gay pride parade.  I am really happy to be here to celebrate and to recognize the many achievements and successes of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Today is a day for celebration, joy, and pride and the municipality has gone to great lengths to demonstrate this feeling throughout the Tel Aviv.  The pride flags and posters, this event and the others throughout the week wonderfully celebrate the LGBT community.  Let’s give a big thank you to everyone that worked so hard to decorate the city and organize these events!

The American LGBT community is also celebrating this month and recognizing their recent achievements in garnering greater equality in all aspects of life.  But we’re not fully there yet.

Since taking office, President Obama has made clear that his vision for a brighter future includes equality for LGBT Americans.  The Obama Administration is dedicated to eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and engaging LGBT communities across the country.

President Obama has expanded federal benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees, including those that serve at U.S. Embassies around the world.  I’m proud that a group of diplomats and local staff from the U.S. Embassy are here today, joined by others from the diplomatic community!

Less than two weeks ago, Americans remembered and thanked our brave soldiers during the Memorial Day holiday.  President Obama’s efforts to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy sent a message of gratitude and recognition for all soldiers – regardless of sexual orientation.

The United States grappled for several years over the benefits and drawbacks of lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Israel was a prime example of a country where gay and lesbian soldiers could serve openly, and whose military epitomizes strength and cohesion.  Israel has been welcoming out and proud soldiers since 1993.

Secretary Clinton has made LGBT rights a priority and a key part of our foreign policy agenda.  In June 2010, she declared that “Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”  I want to repeat this key phrase: “Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”  That is true in the United States and it is true all over the world.

Americans look at Israel and see a country much like their own, a strong democracy with much diversity, tolerance and mutual coexistence.

We admire the LGBT groups, like the municipality’s LGBT center here in Gan Meir and the Aguda, that work to secure a more pluralistic, tolerant, and equal society.  I was honored to meet with them, and our Embassy considers them friends and partners.  Without them, Tel Aviv may not have been voted the “World’s best gay city” or received the title of “the gay capital of the Middle East” by Out magazine!

The Israeli LGBT community has much to celebrate and I am thrilled to be here today to celebrate with you, but also to recognize you and to give you the respect you deserve.

Happy Pride!