[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/22/art.clinton.gi.jpg caption="Hillary Clinton pledged to end violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians Tuesday."]Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to end violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians at home and abroad Tuesday, as the Obama administration moves to extend further benefits to gays working in the federal government.
"We are moving together in the right direction," said Clinton. "We reaffirm our commitment to protect the rights of all human beings."
Clinton drew several standing ovations from the standing-room-only crowd of several hundred during her address at an event co-hosted by the State Department's Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies. June has been recognized as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.
Speaking about the linkages between gay rights and U.S. foreign policy, Clinton said she is asking embassies in Africa and elsewhere to report on rights of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The State Department is also placing more attention on ensuring gays around the world have access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and providing protection for LBGT refugees.
The department is also providing grants to human rights activists who are persecuted either because they are gay or defend gay rights, she said.
"These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue," Clinton said. She drew more rousing applause when she declared "human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights," a variation on the phrase she famously delivered in Beijing 10 years ago declaring "women's rights are human rights."
Clinton said she is equally concerned about creating an environment at the State Department in which gay employees feel valued and "can give 100 percent." That is why, she said, she supported offering equal benefits to same-sex partners of State Department employees, a move that encouraged President Barack Obama to authorize such benefits for gays throughout the federal government.
She noted the State Department also has made it easier for transgender people to change their passports and, for the first time, the agency's "equal opportunity statement" will include gender identity and sexual preference.
The Obama administration is expected to announce Wednesday that gay workers will be able to take medical leave to care for the sick or newborn children of their same-sex partners as part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which generally allows those working for companies with 50 or more employees to take 12 unpaid weeks off to care for newborns or children with serious health issues.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also were to attend a gay pride event later Tuesday at the White House.