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Gay U.S. ambassadors meet with GLIFAA members

John Berry, Australia, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, Dean Baer, Daniel Baer, Spain, James Costos, Denmark, Rufus Gifford, Dominican Republic, James Brewster, Wally Brewster, gay news, Washington Blade

From left; U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford and U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster. (Photo by Blake Bergen, courtesy of GLIFAA)

The five gay U.S. ambassadors met with members of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) for the first time in D.C. on March 9.

U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry, U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Daniel Baer met with GLIFAA members while they were in the nation’s capital for the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference at the State Department. They discussed their experiences with government officials and other diplomats as openly gay ambassadors and how they have helped to advance LGBT rights in the countries where they work.

GLIFAA President Robyn McCutcheon and others from the State Department, USAID, the Peace Corps and other organizations were among those who attended the meeting. It was also the first time that Berry, Costos, Gifford, Brewster and Baer had been in the same room together.

“GLIFAA was proud to host all five out gay U.S. ambassadors this past Sunday for very fruitful conversations on their experiences as personal champions for global LGBT+ human rights,” McCutcheon told the Washington Blade. “GLIFAA is proud to continue supporting these ambassadors, U.S. government foreign affairs agencies, and all of these agencies’ LGBT+ staff to advance equality for all around the world.”

The U.S. Senate last August confirmed Berry, who is the former head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, alongside Baer, Gifford and Costos. The chamber approved Brewster’s nomination three months later.

Baer remains a central figure in the White House’s response to the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia after ousted President Viktor Yanukovych went into hiding last month following the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters in Kiev. Baer on Wednesday met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya in D.C. before he left the nation’s capital to return to Vienna.

Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, last month met with a group of Dominican LGBT rights advocates at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.

Dominican President Danilo Medina approved Brewster’s nomination, but Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo and other local religious leaders vocally opposed it because he is gay. Organizers of a Jan. 22 diplomatic reception to honor Medina cancelled it after several ambassadors to the Caribbean country announced they would not attend because they did not invite Satawake.


Queery: Sarah Blazucki

Sarah Blazucki, gay news, Washington Blade, Queery

Sarah Blazucki (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mid-year last year, Sarah Blazucki was ready for a professional change.

The 37-year-old Baltimore native had a good six-and-a-half year run as editor at Philadelphia Gay News and was looking for fresh vistas to tackle. In October, she moved to Washington to work as a writer and editor with The Peace Corps.

“I felt like I’d done all I could do with the paper and it was time to let someone else take over,” she says. “Someone with new, fresh ideas and for me to do something else. I was sort of looking to take my career to the next level.”

Though she says things are “very good” in her new position, it’s a huge change from what she calls “the rhythm” of the weekly newspaper rigors. She also realizes it will take time to get integrated into D.C. LGBT life.

“Just being at the PGN, I very much had my finger on the pulse of the LGBT community and down here I just don’t,” she says. “Granted I’ve only lived here three months, but it’s just going to take some time to find the community again. And not just the bars. I know where they are, but I mean really the heart of the community. The non-profits, the larger piece that really makes up the heart of the community.”

Blazucki is also active in the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the founder of website which allows web surfers to find out what laws apply in their part of the country. She also writes resumes on the side.

She has identified as queer since she was 21 and was in an 11-year relationship with a man whom she eventually married. But she says she knew all along she “was not straight.”

Blazucki’s dating but not in a serious relationship. She lives in Petworth and enjoys running, yoga, reading and “being a news junkie” in her free time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

Since I was 21. Sometimes I get flack from gays and lesbians because I’m not a gold-star lesbian and that can be hard.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Can I have more than one? As a journalist, I really admire Rachel Maddow. She’s super-smart and she’s got moxie. I also have a couple of personal heroes, who I can also count as friends: Gloria Casarez, who is the director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, and Carrie Jacobs, the executive director of The Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Tracks. I had some good times there.

Describe your dream wedding.

I was married before and that was probably as close as I would get. (See my answer about overrated social customs.) It was a 1920s carnivale theme, very fun. Less of a wedding, and more of a big party.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Gender equality/women’s rights.

What historical outcome would you change?

The 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In the case, the court ruled 5-4 against Lilly Ledbetter, who had been getting paid less than her male counterparts at Goodyear for years. The court said her claim of long-term discriminatory pay decisions was filed after the statute of limitations, 180 days, had expired.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Pop culture really isn’t my forte, but Kurt Cobain’s suicide was pretty significant.

On what do you insist?

It’s OK to be gay. Also, good grammar and correct language use. It’s my job.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“So excited to have found what is likely the closest grocery store to my house, and it’s an organic grocer. That only took 3 mos. Sheesh!”

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Determined: How I got over a mostly shitty childhood and found my way in the world”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

For myself, nothing. I like being queer. For others, encourage self-acceptance.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

The universe.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Keep up the good fight. Don’t let the LGBT-rights movement be sidelined by petty differences. Don’t sacrifice the minorities amongst us for the good of the majority.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My family, my close friends, LGBT equality.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That lesbians “process” too much.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?


What’s the most overrated social custom?


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I’m not particularly motivated by either, but a Pulitzer would be nice.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That my life and work mattered, and that I could have a positive impact with both.

Why Washington?

Work. And it helps that my family is close.