Markey to Obama: It’s Time to Appoint Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights within U.S. Department of State

Senator Markey calls on President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights within the U.S. Department of State 

Washington (October 10, 2014) –Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, was joined by 24 Senators in a letter calling on President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) human rights within the U.S. Department of State, in line with the position proposed in his legislation, the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2014 (S. 2472). The Special Envoy would serve within the State Department as a principal advisor to the Secretary of State on LGBT issues. 

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. Recently, there is a trend of countries passing barbaric laws that deliberately try to persecute the LGBT community. This past year alone Uganda and Nigeria passed new laws criminalizing homosexuality with potential punishment of life imprisonment. A number of people have already been arrested and tried under these new statutes. 

“We believe the time has come to take the next step. To adequately address the challenges posed by these new discriminatory laws, there needs to be coordination of action across the federal government,” writes Senator Markey in the letter. “That is why we are calling on you to create a Special Envoy within the State Department who would serve as principal advisor to the Secretary of State on LGBT issues and can coordinate our efforts to resist these discriminatory laws.”

A copy of the letter to President Obama can be found here. A copy of the International Human Rights Defense Act can be found here.

The letter also is signed by Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE),  Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Throughout his career, Senator Markey has been proud to stand up for equality for all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He has consistently stood with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community through some of the biggest fights for global equality. Senator Markey has co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in every Congress it has been introduced. ENDA would ban discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, a crucial protection that is not currently guaranteed nationwide. He was proud to vote in support of ENDA when the Senate passed the bill on November 7, 2013. As a member of the House of Representatives, Senator Markey was also one of only 67 Members of the House to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when it passed in 1996. 

Ensuring equal treatment for all people is one of Senator Markey’s top priorities in the United States Senate. He will continue to fight for LGBT equality on all fronts in the years to come.