Sen. Markey & Rep. Lowenthal Introduce Legislation Affirming U.S. Commitment to International LGBT Rights


Legislation creates position in State Dept. to coordinate efforts to promote international LGBT human rights

Washington (January 29, 2015) – In the wake of President Obama’s commitment in the State of the Union to defend the human rights of the LGBT community, today Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced bicameral legislation to affirm that LGBT human rights are a foreign policy priority for the U.S. government. Originally introduced last year by Senator Markey, the International Human Rights Defense Actwould direct 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 would establish a Special Envoy position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to coordinate that effort. 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.

“When President Obama addressed the nation and committed to defending the human rights of the LGBT community, we made that commitment to the world,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “With the rights of the LGBT community under attack around the globe, we must stand hand-in-hand with them in the struggle for recognition and equality everywhere. It is vital to have a dedicated position at the State Department spearheading that effort.  The International Human Rights Defense Act will promote a coordinated effort across the federal government to support our position as a model for defending LGBT and human rights around the world, and I thank Rep. Lowenthal for his partnership on this important legislation.”

“We must do what we can as a nation to enforce the precept that all human beings, regardless of where they live, are entitled to a basic set of human rights which include the right to love who they choose without fear of punishment or death. LGBT rights are human rights,” said Rep. Lowenthal.

A copy of the International Human Rights Defense Act can be found HERE. A one-page summary can be found HERE.

Specifically, the International Human Rights Defense Act directs 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.

·      Coordinate efforts to promote international LGBT human rights with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector.

·      Create the position of “Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Peoples” in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which will be responsible for all inter-bureau and inter-agency coordination of the United States government’s efforts to defend human rights for the LGBT community internationally.

·      Continue to include a section on LGBT international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.

Original Cosponsors: Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Original cosponsors in the House include: Representatives Tony Cardenas, David Cicilline, Steve Cohen, Gerrald Connolly, Susan Davis, Suzan DelBene, Ted Deutch, Keith Ellison, Eliot Engel, Anna Eshoo, Elizabeth Esty, Chris Gibson, Alan Grayson, Luis Gutiérrez, Richard Hanna, Alcee Hastings, Jim Himes, Mike Honda, Sheila Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Hank Johnson, William Keating, Derek Kilmer, Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu, Sean Patrick Maloney, Betty McCollum, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Jerrold Nadler, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Scott Peters, Mark Pocan, Jared Polis, Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Sherman, Kyrsten Sinema, Adam Smith, Jackie Speier, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Nydia Velázquez, and Frederica Wilson.

The legislation is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, Advocates For Youth, American Jewish World Service, Human Rights First, Freedom House, Equality Federation, Council for Global Equality, Anti-Defamation League, Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG National, Transgender Law Center, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

###