Democratic lawmakers continue push for passage of International Human Rights Defense Act to make Special Envoy position permanent


Washington (May 8, 2015) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today led a letter of welcome with his Senate colleagues to new Special Envoy for the Rights of LGBT Persons Randy W. Berry. Mr. Berry was recently named to the new position at the State Department after Senator Markey and his colleagues introduced legislation, the International Human Rights Defense Act (S.302), calling for the creation of the position to affirm LGBT rights are a foreign policy priority for the United States.


In their letter, the Senators point to several nations around the world where there are key areas of immediate concern. In Egypt, foreign nationals who identify as LGBT are at risk of arrest and deportation and may be denied entry to Egypt simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Russia’s anti-homosexuality propaganda legislation is being used as a model and spreading to nearby countries. Last year, 113 trans persons were murdered in Brazil, which reportedly has the highest rate of violence against the trans community in the world.


“It is essential that the United States be consistent in both word and deed, so we encourage you to explore effective mechanisms to counter extremist rhetoric, robust ways in which to respond when countries enact anti-LGBT legislation or allow violence and persecution of LGBT persons, and to strengthen collaborations and partnerships with allied governments and non-governmental organizations,” write the Senators in the letter.  


“We will continue to endorse the passage of S.302 so that the office of the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons is made permanent as is the attention given by the State Department to the promotion of human rights for all persons—regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


The International Human Rights Defense Act was originally introduced by Senator Markey in June 2014 and reintroduced this year in January with Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) in the House of Representatives. The legislation directs the State Department 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. The legislation establishes a Special Envoy position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to coordinate that effort.


Senators signing the letter include Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).