Senator introduced legislation to affirm U.S. commitment to international LGBT rights


Washington (August 1, 2014) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) was joined by 30 Senate and House members in a letter to call on President Obama to use the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit beginning next week as an opportunity to focus on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people throughout the globe. While the rights of the LGBT community have been supported and strengthened in the United States under the Obama administration, internationally more than 80 nations around the world have laws that criminalize homosexuality, prohibit public support for the LGBT community, or promote homophobia. In seven countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. In particular, there has been a systematic targeting of LGBT Africans, most notably in Uganda and Nigeria. The Summit, which represents the largest single engagement by any U.S. President with Africa, is an unique opportunity to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties to Africa, as well as a chance to underscore America’s commitment to strengthening international human rights.


“This historic gathering will serve as an opportunity to stress the importance of human rights protections at a time when we see a backsliding of LGBT protections internationally,” write the lawmakers in the letter.  “It also provides an opportunity to make clear that the persecution of LGBT individuals is bad for business and undermines investment in Africa. This is why we request that this summit be used as an opportunity to address the importance of advancing human rights for LGBT citizens throughout the world.”


A copy of the letter to President Obama can be found HERE.


The letter also is signed by Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Representatives James P. McGovern, John F. Tierney, Elizabeth H. Esty, Alan S. Lowenthal, Jerrold Nadler, Jim McDermott, David N. Cicilline, Jackie Speier, Jan Schakowsky, and Christopher Murphy.


In June, Senator Markey and 24 senators introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act (S. 2472), legislation that would direct the Department of State to make preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community a foreign policy priority and devise a global strategy to achieve those goals establish a position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor responsible for coordinating that effort.