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Secretary Clinton Marks 20 Years of Gay Diplomats Openly Serving

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary Clinton paid tribute to the State Department’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) organization. The ceremony was held in the State Department's historic Ben Franklin room for the first time.

After receiving a standing ovation Clinton thanked the crowd for what she called their courageous actions in the face of historic discrimination. The secretary lamented that homosexuals could not serve openly in the State Department until 1992.

"The policy forced people to lie or mislead or give up their dreams of serving this country all together," she said, noting that it was under her husband's first administration that federal gay employees received equal rights and partner benefits. Clinton said during her tenure she's made expanding State Department policies to be more LGBT friendly a priority.  

"Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and living the life with the people they love," she said.

The secretary has also been a champion for homosexual and transgender rights globally. On International Human Rights Day last December, Clinton gave a speech in Geneva declaring that for the United States, "gay rights are human rights," and led the effort to get the first-ever U.N. resolution on human rights for LGBT community passed.

"When I gave that speech in Geneva and said that we were going to make this a priority of American foreign policy, I didn't see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for," she said.

Clinton asked the crowd, a mixture of veteran and young gay State Department employees, to stop and reflect on how much progress America has made in advancing gay rights, and how far behind much of the rest of the world still is.

"Remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life," she said.

"I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do ... to make not only the agencies of our government, but our world more just and free for all people."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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