The Foreign Service Journal - September 2014 - page 68

AFSA’s Sharon Papp Wins Equality Award
AFSA’s General Counsel
Sharon Papp received the
2014 Equality Award at the
Pride event held by Gays and
Lesbians in Foreign Affairs
Agencies on June 19.
GLIFAA’s annual celebra-
tion of LGBT Pride month
took place in the State
Department’s Benjamin
Franklin Diplomatic Recep-
tion Room. It featured a key-
note address by Secretary
of State John Kerry as well
as remarks by noted LGBT
activist, Russian-American
journalist Masha Gessen.
GLIFAA President Robyn
McCutcheon opened the
program by highlighting
GLIFAA’s priority issues. As
the first transgender Foreign
Service officer to transi-
tion on the job overseas,
McCutcheon noted that she
has witnessed the growing
shift in acceptance of lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgen-
der issues in the Foreign
Sec. Kerry detailed the
State Department’s commit-
ment to LGBT inclusiveness,
both at home and abroad.
“The State Department has
always been at the forefront
of equality in the federal
government,” he said. He
commended McCutcheon
for not only getting through
a difficult period during her
transition but for “turning
it into a precedent-setting
event, and as a result she
made it a lot easier—or at
least a little easier—for those
who follow.”
Sec. Kerry also thanked
guest of honor Masha Ges-
sen for her perseverance
and advocacy. “When all the
repressive anti-LGBT laws in
Russia threatened literally to
break apart her family, she
put up a fight,” he said.
He hailed the courageous
work performed during times
of discrimination by GLIFAA
and other organizations and
ing AFSA and spotlighting
Sharon Papp.
Following Kerry’s address,
McCutcheon returned to the
podium to present the 2014
Equality Award to Sharon
Papp for her work to protect
the rights of LGBT Foreign
Service employees dating
back to the early 1990s. The
Equality Award has been
given in past years—notably
to Hillary Clinton in 2011—but
only when an outstanding
candidate is identified.
Papp, who is AFSA’s gen-
eral counsel, did not know
she was getting the honor.
“Receiving the award was a
complete shock to me,” she
said. “I am surprised and
extremely honored to be
presented with the Equality
Papp began working with
GLIFAA in 1992 and was
instrumental in ensuring that
written confirmation of the
prohibition against discrimi-
nation based on sexual orien-
tation, issued in 1994 by then
Secretary of State Warren
Christopher, was included in
each chapter of the Foreign
Affairs Manual that banned
discrimination based on
other protected classes (e.g.,
sex, race and religion).
Papp also worked with
State’s Office of Civil Rights
to draft the Foreign Affairs
Handbook provisions that
permit LGBT employees
to file informal complaints
of discrimination (3 FAH-1
H-1520) and with the Bureau
of Diplomatic Security’s
Office of Personnel, Security,
and Suitability on the written
Personal Investigation Proce-
dures that govern interviews
with employees and sources
about an employee’s sexual
More recently, AFSA
staff has been engaged on
issues relating to the FAM
provisions for Members of
Household and Same Sex
Domestic Partners. AFSA was
also proud to lend its strong
support to GLIFAA, which
sought, successfully, to per-
suade the American Foreign
Service Protective Associa-
tion to seek OPM approval
for inclusion of transgender
coverage in the Foreign Ser-
vice Benefit Plan.
During her 22 years at
AFSA, Papp has worked on
many cases dealing with
LGBT issues but noted that
she is not alone at AFSA in
working on these issues. “I
would like to recognize the
others on the labor manage-
ment staff who have worked
on more recent GLIFAA
issues,” she said.
“Before coming to AFSA, I
was a civil rights lawyer, so I
don’t necessarily see this as
courageous or brave,” Papp
said. “When I see something
wrong, it’s just in my nature
to do whatever I can to fix
Adrian Rios,
Labor Management Intern
AFSA General Counsel Sharon Papp (right) accepts the 2014
Equality Award from GLIFAA President Robyn McCutcheon.
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