Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator, and our many friends here,
I am excited to join you at today’s event.
This is the fourth time the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia has been celebrated in Vietnam, and over the course of only these four short years we have seen more and more attention given by the Vietnamese people and their government to LGBTI issues.
This year’s theme is LGBTI youth, which is very appropriate in a country with such a large youth population.
Efforts to end the vulnerabilities and discrimination faced by young LGBTI people should benefit from that youthful energy.
Americans are also very familiar with the efforts needed to overcome such discrimination.
For more than two centuries, we have worked hard, and not without setbacks, to transform the ideals of liberty and equality from a founding promise into reality for everyone.
Many Americans, including those in the LGBTI community like me, have struggled to reduce the challenges and stigma faced by that community.
In Vietnam, the LGBTI community and its supporters, including family members, peers, other allies and policymakers, are now leading a similar effort.
Support for issues that matter to the LGBTI community are growing, led by the people like you who understand them.
We are witnessing real changes in attitudes. I am impressed by the recent efforts made by civil society organizations such as iSEE, ICS, and PFLAG. They are true pioneers of work on advocacy on important rights.
I am also very glad to see many activities are planned to celebrate the IDAHOT in 2015, which includes a lively community event on Sunday in Hanoi.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you will have a series of events including a leadership workshop for transgender people, and a meeting of PFLAG of transgender people.
Secretary of State Kerry has called on governments around the world to stand in solidarity with their LGBTI populations.
He strongly believes that promoting LGBTI issues abroad is “at the very heart” of U.S. foreign policy efforts.
The rights of LGBTI persons are not different than the rights of everyone else, and all people deserve to be treated with dignity – no matter who they are or who they love.
The U.S. Mission in Vietnam has proudly supported efforts in this country to promote LGBTI rights, from partnering with UNDP to co-sponsor LGBTI advocacy activities, to supporting LGBTI leaders through our academic and cultural exchange programs.
We look forward to continuing to work with you all on this important issue.
So, in the spirit of supporting the LGBTI community, I would like to wish you a happy IDAHOT and great success in your endeavors.