BERLIN — The cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy in Germany applauded the German government’s efforts to welcome Ukrainians who have sought refuge in the country.
“The German government and municipalities and all 16 states have been extremely welcoming to Ukrainian refugees in Germany,” Cherrie Daniels told The Washington Blade on July 22 during a virtual embassy interview in Berlin.
More than 900,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Germany since the start of the war on February 24.
Ukrainians can enter Germany without a visa.
The German government provides those who have registered for residency with a “basic income” that helps them pay for housing and other basic needs, including food. Ukrainian refugees can also have access to German language courses, vocational training programs and childcare services.
Dmitry Shapoval, a 24-year-old gay Ukrainian living with HIV, is among the LGBTQ and intersex Ukrainians who have found refuge in Berlin. The Organization for Shelter, Asylum and Refuge has partnered with Airbnb.org and Alight (formerly known as the American Refugee Committee), to provide short-term and more permanent housing in Shapoval and d other LGBTQ and intersex Ukrainians and other displaced people in Germany and other countries in Europe.
Ukrainians, Russians, Iranians, Syrians, Algerians, Ghanaians and people from more than a dozen other countries participated in a roundtable on LGBTQ and intersex refugees that the embassy co-hosted with the Canadian Embassy in Germany on July 19. ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth and representatives from the Lesbian and Gay Association of Germany, Queer Refugees Deutschland, Human Rights Watch, Quarteera and Miles also participated.
“We can and must promote the protection of vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers,” said US Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann. “These people are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and we can and must respond to human rights violations. And we can and we must engage international organizations on the human rights of LGBTQI+ people. »
Daniels said one of the issues discussed by roundtable participants was “ensuring asylum seekers receive proper legal advice before their asylum hearing.”
“Any country, including the United States and Germany, could do better,” she told The Blade.
Daniels added that the overall goal of the roundtable was “to listen to what the challenges (of the participants) are in the countries they come from.”
“Our job is to listen to what those challenges are and see what our embassies in those areas or what the State Department as a whole in the White House can do to support their further inclusion and equal rights for them. “, she said.
Daniels spoke to the Blade a day before Berlin’s annual Christopher Street Day parade.
The Embassy, which is adjacent to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. displayed several Progress Pride flags in the days leading up to the parade. The canopy over the main entrance to the embassy was also adorned in rainbow colors.
The embassy — along with the U.S. consulates in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Munich — hosted a July 6 discussion on LGBTQ and intersex issues in sport. Former Washington Spirit player Joanna Lohman, Portland Thorns coach Nadine Angerer and former German soccer player Marcus Urban attended.
Lohman is a lesbian, while Angerer and Urban are openly bisexual and gay, respectively.
The embassy has also launched “UnterFreunden”, a podcast that highlights LGBTQ and intersex issues.
“What we wanted to ensure is that we don’t just celebrate Pride during Pride Month, in June or July in Germany,” Jesse George, the embassy’s public diplomacy and media adviser, told The Blade during the interview with Daniels. “So we’re amplifying and raising awareness regarding the LGBTQI+ community throughout the year.”
President Joe Biden signed a memo in February 2021 committing the United States to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. That same year, the White House named Jessica Stern, who previously served as executive director of OutRight Action International, as the next U.S. special envoy for promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights overseas.
In April, the State Department began issuing passports with “X” gender markers. Stern, during an exclusive interview with The Blade ahead of Pride Month, noted that the Biden administration’s continued support for LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad also includes marriage equality in counties where activists say this is possible through legislative or judicial processes.
“When together we stand up for LGBTQI+ people, we stand up for the work of building a country and a world where everyone belongs and where everyone’s rights are respected, no matter who they are or who they love.” Gutmann said at the July 19 reception. .
On June 24, the United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion, said the Supreme Court should reconsider decisions in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify marriage equality into federal law, passed the US House of Representatives last month with 47 Republicans voting in favor. The bill needs 60 votes in the US Senate to overcome a potential filibuster.
Daniels said the Roe decision is “definitely” on the minds of LGBTQ and intersex activists in Germany and “on our minds”.
“What we can do as an administration is stand in solidarity with these marginalized communities and, of course, for the rights of women and girls and for reproductive rights around the world,” she said. . “That’s something we can do as a State Department, as a foreign policy agency.”
Richard Grenell represented the United States in Berlin from 2018 to 2020
Former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, represented the United States in Berlin from 2018 to 2020.
The previous administration tapped Grenell to lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Blade last August filed a lawsuit against the State Department in federal court in DC that is seeking emails from Grenell regarding the initiative.
The embassy during Grenell’s tenure as ambassador hosted a group of LGBTQ and intersex rights activists from around the world. Grenell and then-US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Knight Craft hosted an event in 2019 on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting focused on decriminalization efforts around the world.
Grenell, among others, was condemned by German politicians who accused him of supporting far-right politicians and attempting to interfere in German politics. Advocacy groups in the United States and around the world have also sharply criticized Grenell for his outspoken support for then-President Donald Trump.
“People had been invited to the embassy at that time for certain public events,” Daniels said when the blade asked her about Grenell’s tenure in Berlin. “Now that our doors are wide open and we’re showing this inclusive face of the United States, you know, I’ll let other people do that contrast.”
“within these four walls so to speak, we hear, listen and lead as much as we can, sharing our policies and programs in a way that will address how can we enhance this message of inclusion and gender equality rights as LGBTQ rights or human rights,” Daniels added. “It’s not a niche issue. It’s built into all of our policies.
Daniels further pointed out “it’s a difference you’re going to see”.
“Again, it’s not flying the flag on Pride month, although that’s wonderful,” she said. “He fights for those rights, and all of our programs and all of our outreach and making sure that those are human rights. It’s not something that’s just for an individual, you know, trying to show that we’re doing it. I think people can feel that inclusion when they are in the company of this embassy.