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Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies

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Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) is the officially-recognized organization representing gay and lesbian personnel and their families in the United States Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Department of Commerce, Foreign Agricultural Service, and other agencies and entities working in foreign affairs in the United States Government. GLIFAA was founded in 1992 by fewer than a dozen employees who faced official harassment and potential loss of their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation. The organization grew to hundreds of Foreign Service, Civil Service, and contract personnel and their families serving in Washington, D.C., throughout the U.S., and at U.S. embassies and missions around the world.

Among other accomplishments, GLIFAA succeeded in pressing for the issuance of a non-discrimination policy by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1993, and worked with the U.S. Administration, the management of government agencies, and other employee associations to eliminate barriers for obtaining security clearances and create and implement non-discrimination policies with regard to entry and employment in the U.S. Foreign Service and Civil Service. In addition, the organization worked to improve the situation for the partners of gay and lesbian U.S. Foreign Service personnel serving overseas. GLIFAA met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Prior to the early 1990s, homosexuality was grounds for exclusion from the United States Foreign Service and many positions in the Civil Service. Indeed, numerous individuals were dismissed from their positions in government because of their sexual orientation. This happened particularly in the 1950s and 60's, in what has been called the "Lavender Scare" against sexual minorities in the U.S. government, linked to the McCarthy-inspired "Second Red Scare" against perceived communist sympathizers. This was documented in David K. Johnson's book, "The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government " ISBN 0-226-40481-1.

The first publicly gay U.S. ambassador was Ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton and sworn in by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1999. The second publicly gay U.S. ambassador, and the first publicly gay Foreign Service officer to be appointed as ambassador, was U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and in 2001 sworn in by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In July 2005, GLIFAA members held a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.[1] The group in Washington has also held activities at the State Department to commemorate Gay Pride month, including events with openly gay Congressman Jim Kolbe and Judy Shephard, mother of slain gay student Matthew Shephard.

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