Summit for Democracy Side Event: Advancing Inclusion and Democracy: The Participation of LGBTQI+ Persons



The Summit for Democracy provides a historic opportunity for the United States and its partners to affirm the connection between robust democratic institutions and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.  

This special side event will highlight the commitment of the United States and its partners to protecting and promoting the human rights of LGBTQI+ people as a cornerstone of our commitment to democracy. Featuring candid dialogue about the roles of political and community leaders in building healthy nations, inclusive development, and strong democracies for all people, the event will aim to inspire new partnerships, actions, and commitments for safeguarding the human rights and full political participation of LGBTQI+ people. 


Opening Remarks Speaker Bios:

Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg currently serves as the 19th Secretary of Transportation,  having been sworn in on February 3, 2021. 

Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Secretary Buttigieg served two terms as mayor of his hometown of South Bend, Indiana. A graduate of Harvard University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Buttigieg served for seven years as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, taking a leave of absence from the mayor’s office for a deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.

In 2019, he launched his historic campaign for president. Throughout 2020, he campaigned for the election of the Biden-Harris ticket and served on the advisory board for the presidential transition. In December, he was nominated by President-elect Biden to be Secretary of Transportation. He was confirmed by the Senate on February 2, 2021, becoming the first openly gay person confirmed to serve in a president’s Cabinet.

Secretary Buttigieg lives with his husband Chasten and their rescue dogs, Buddy and Truman.

Fernando Elisio Freire – Minister of State, Family, Inclusion and Social Development of Cabo Verde

Dr. Fernando Elísio Freire graduated in Economics, he is a member of the Banco de Cabo Verde. He has spent almost all of his professional career in the political sphere, having been President of Youth for Democracy (JpD). Today, he is one of the Vice-Presidents of the MpD and Member of the Political Committee of the party. He performed the functions of National Deputy, Leader of the Parliamentary Group of the MpD and President of the Specialized Committee on Finance and Budget of the National Assembly. He also has experience as a professor in the economic area. In the IX Legislature, he was Minister of State, Parliamentary Affairs and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Sports and Minister of Family and Social Inclusion.


Ann Linde is the current Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. She has held that office since September 2019. Prior to that, Ms. Linde served as Minister for European Union Affairs and Trade, and from 2014 to 2016 she was State Secretary at Ministry for Home Affairs. From 2013 to 2014, she served as Head of the International Unit for the Party of European Socialists (PES), based in Brussels. She was the International Secretary of the Swedish Social Democratic Party from 2000 to 2013.

In the 1980s, she worked for several non-governmental organisations and during the 1990s she was working at the Swedish Government Offices, holding both political and non-political positions.

Among her numerous assignments she has served as a board member of the Olof Palme International Centre and the Anna Lindh Memorial Fund. Ms Linde has a bachelor’s degree in political science, sociology and economics from Stockholm University.

Ann Linde is married, has two children and lives in Stockholm.

Moderated Panelist Discussion

Moderated by Jessica Stern – Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+

President Biden appointed Jessica Stern as the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons, and Special Envoy Stern will oversee the implementation of the February 4, 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World.

Prior to joining the State Department, Special Envoy Stern led OutRight Action International, a leading global LGBTQI+ human rights organization, as its Executive Director for ten years.

Special Envoy Stern has been a researcher at Human Rights Watch, a Ralph Bunche Fellow at Amnesty International, a program director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs.  Special Envoy Stern has been a member of numerous boards and advisory councils, including the LGBTI Reference Group of UNWomen and the Civil Society Advisory Group of the Generation Equality Forum.  Stern is the recipient of numerous honors including from Attitude Magazine, Crane’s New York Business, Gay City News, and the Metropolitan Community Church.

Special Envoy Stern has lived in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Special Envoy Stern accepts all pronouns.

Petra De Sutter was sworn in on the 1st October 2020 as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Administration, Public Enterprises, Telecommunication and Post under Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. After a long career as a gynaecologist and fertility expert, she entered politics in 2014, as a member of the Flemish green party Groen, motivated by the desire to combat the use of harmful substances in everyday environments.

In the Belgian Senate and the Council of Europe, De Sutter championed women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and tackled bio-ethical questions, including surrogacy and commercial egg donation. She is committed to a socially equitable Europe, and to improving the rights and protections of refugees and the LGBTQI+ community.

In 2019, De Sutter was elected to the European Parliament as the leading candidate for her party Groen. She was a member in the Committee on the Environment and Public Health, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, and was the first Green Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

As Minister responsible for Public Administration, Public Enterprises, Telecommunication and Post De Sutter will focus on the challenges of digitalisation and sustainability. The importance of a strong and well-run state is indeed more important than ever during this period of COVID-19. As Deputy Prime Minister, De Sutter will also be responsible for the green agenda within wider government policy. Thanks to her expertise and integrity, she is respected and trusted across party lines.

Phylesha Brown-Acton hails from the village of Fineone Hakupu Atua, Niue Island. She identifies as Fakafifine, pronouns are she and her. Phylesha is the Executive Director of F’INE Pasifika Aotearoa Trust (pronounced
Fee-neh), a Pacific Whānau Ora funded organisation that provides navigation support services to MVPFAFF+ 1 & Pacific LGBTQI+ people and their families in the Auckland region.

Phylesha has extensive governance and leadership experience, serving on regional boards such as ILGA Oceania, ILGA World, IAS and ICASO. She is a Netball World Cup Gold Medallist and enjoys outrigger canoeing and is an avid Polynesian weaver. Phylesha has rooted her work in advancing the voice, visibility, and rights of MVPFAFF+ / Pacific LGBTQI+ people and their families for over 25 years.

Phylesha is a weaver, dancer, storyteller, and navigator. Phylesha today remains just as committed alongside many others who continue their collective activism, work, and solidarity across many platforms to advance the human rights of those she serves.

Tamás Dombos, Economist, sociologist, anthropologist. Between 2001 and 2011 he was a researcher at the Center for Policy Studies at Central European University conducting research on equal opportunity policies. Between 2015 and 2017 he was a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Eötvös Loránd University, between 2018 and 2020 researcher at the Faculty of Law of the same university. Between 2017 and 2021 he was a training expert at the Faculty of Law Enforcement at National University of Public Service. He has been working for Háttér Society since 2007, first as a volunteer then as a paid staff member and board member. He coordinates the advocacy and research activities of the organization, supports the work of the Legal Aid Service and is responsible for Háttér’s international relations. Since 2012 he has also served on the board of the Hungarian LGBT Alliance, the national umbrella organization.

Marcela Sánchez is a Social Work graduate from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.  She also holds a masters degree in Peacebuilding from the Universidad de los Andes.  She is a former Fulbright Hubert H. Humphrey Professional Academic Development Fellow at the University of Minnesota 2014-2015. 
She is a feminist and defender of human rights.  Currently she is the director of Colombia Diversa, one of the most representative organizations in the fight for equality and diversity in Colombia. She has worked in the fields of women’s political participation, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health, and human rights in research as well as political incidence strategies, especially in the recognition of the rights of lesbians, gays bisexuals and trans individuals, including their families.

The Honorable Esther Muthoni Rosanna Passaris, OGW is a Member of Parliament representing Nairobi County at The National Assembly since August, 2017. She is an accomplished businesswoman, political leader, and social entrepreneur, having been awarded the Guinness Stout Effort Award in 1995 for empowering deaf persons at Sharper Images, her first company. 

At the National Assembly, Hon. Passaris is an active member of the Public Investments Committee and the Special Funds Account Committee. She is also a founding member of the Kenya Parliamentary Caucus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & Business and an active member of the Kenyan chapter of the African Parliamentarians Against Corruption. Internationally, Hon Passaris is the Chapter Chair, Eastern and Southern Africa at UNITE, a global association of parliamentarians working to end infectious diseases. Hon Passaris is also a member of the Global Parliamentary Alliance for Health, Rights and Development (GPA) and European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF). 

In June 2019, she was appointed to the Political Bureau of the Africa Forum for Urban Safety (AFUS) as an Executive Member to develop and implement urban safety and crime prevention policies and programs in East Africa. In recognition of her dedication to poverty eradication through business incubation, Hon. Passaris was nominated to become Senator for Kenya to the World Business Angels Investments Forum (WBAF).

Hon Passaris holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration from United States International University (USIU -Africa) and is a Vital Voices (VV) Fellow.

Closing Remarks

Jay Gilliam (he/him/his) is the Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID), serving as the Agency’s lead to elevate issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other people of diverse genders and sexualities. In this role, he works to meaningfully integrate LGBTQI+ people into USAID’s inclusive development programs, policies, research and training. Most recently, he was the Engagement and Communications Advisor in the Center for Education at USAID.

Previously, Jay served as the Director of the Global program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). During his time at HRC, Jay successfully organized four annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summits, created an active alumni network of 180+ advocates from over 90 countries, and trained dozens of advocates from every region of the world on LGBTQ advocacy.

He served in the Obama administration at USAID where he worked on program policy, public engagement and communications, particularly on the Agency’s LGBTQI+ and food security work. Jay also worked at the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. in Washington, DC and Peace Boat Japan in Tokyo.

Jay grew up in Arlington, Texas before leaving the Lone Star state for Amherst College in Massachusetts to get his BA in political science. He did his graduate studies on a Rotary Fellowship, earning an MA in peace studies at International Christian University in Tokyo,
Japan.