State Dept. Spends Taxpayer Money to Teach Irish About LGBT Activism

By Published on July 21, 2016

The U.S. Department of State wants to train activists from Ireland how to foster gay- and trans-friendly culture.

A new exchange project developed by the State Department would bring “civil society activists and legal experts” in Ireland to the U.S. for two weeks of tours and seminars highlighting America’s work to promote gay and lesbian equality.

The Department of State called on nonprofit organizations to submit proposals for the fledgling program in a grant announcement called “Advocating for Human and Civil Rights for the LGBT Community.”

Still in its infancy, the program is intended to “explore U.S. advocacy efforts, at the local, state, national, and international levels, to support the equality and dignity of the LGBT community,” the grant solicitation states. The eventual recipient of the grant money would determine much of the program’s structure, but is currently advertised as a two-week trip to the U.S. for 10-16 activists, half from the Republic of Ireland and half from Northern Ireland.

Participants would visit at least two U.S. cities, meet with gay and lesbian advocacy groups, analyze how U.S. advocacy groups overcame challenges to enact gay-friendly legislation and learn “how they engage religious leaders to create wider social acceptance and understanding.”

“Challenges remain on many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy issues,” the State Department notes. Activists in the program would learn “how they engage religious leaders to create wider social acceptance and understanding.”

Homosexual marriage is illegal in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, but the Republic of Ireland passed a referendum last summer legalizing same sex unions. The Department of State hopes its exchange program will help activists “gain insight into how LGBT rights groups work effectively across regions and across borders.”

One particular problem prompting the exchange program, according to the grant announcement, is the concern “that Brexit could potentially impede progress on LGBT rights.”

When the UK voted to leave the European Union on June 23, the political sway the EU had over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland diminished, causing some to fear the UK may be left behind in many progressive reforms.

“Europe delivered on the hopes of LGBT activists,” Phillip M. Ayoub, assistant politics professor at Drexel University, wrote last month in The Washington Post. “Throughout the 20th century, British LGBT activists looked to their neighbors in Europe when pushing for change.”

The State Department is offering between $30,000 and $60,000 for organizations to plan and execute the exchange program, which is a small amount compared to the $24 million the agency has spent over the last five years on gay and transgender advocacy efforts through the Global Equity Fund.

The agency’s exchange program follows President Barack Obama’s mission to push for gay and lesbian reforms both at home and abroad. Obama directed federal agencies to look for ways to “promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere” through foreign aid in 2011.


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