Lesbian couple honored at State Department
A U.S. lesbian diplomat and her partner who helped found Albania's gay movement while stationed there were honored at the State Department on Dec. 2 with the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Overseas.
The award, handed out by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, was given to Melissa Schraibman, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana as a resident legal adviser, and her partner, Mindy Michels.
It was presented by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in a ceremony that was attended by former U.S. ambassadors to Albania John Withers and Marcie Ries.
It was the first time the Secretary of State Award recognized efforts to promote LGBT rights.
"This was, of course, extremely personally meaningful for Melissa and me, as the work on the Albanian LGBT movement was our primary focus over the last nearly two years," Michels said. "But it is also something that has larger meaning, as I think it was the first time that this sort of volunteerism and diplomacy on LGBT human rights has been recognized in a formal and high-level way as an important part of the work done by government employees serving abroad."
Michels said the announcement of the winners goes to every U.S. embassy worldwide.