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


Washington (June 7, 2018) –  Seeking to build on the United States’ fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) equality to be a foreign policy priority both at home and abroad, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) have introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2018 in the House and Senate.

More than 80 nations around the world have enacted laws that criminalize the LGBTI community. Recent developments demonstrate a clear pattern of human rights violations on the basis on sexual orientation and gender identity in every region of the world. To this day there are still seven countries where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.


“This special envoy position at the State Department will be a global model for defending LGBTQ rights around the world,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defend the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBTQ community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere. I thank Congressman Lowenthal for his continued partnership on this legislation. We will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBTQ community in their fight for equality.”

“It is part of our duty as a nation built on the concept of equality, that we do what we can to enforce the precept that all people are entitled to the same set of basic human rights,” said Congressman Lowenthal. “These rights include the right to love who they chose without fear of punishment or death. LGBTI rights are human rights.”


The legislation would direct the Department of State to continue its efforts in defending the human rights of LGBTI people around the world. Specifically, the act would direct the Department of State to:

  • Prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community;
  • Devise a global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBTI community;
  • Coordinate with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector, to promote international LGBTI human rights;
  • Create the permanent position of “Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBTI People” in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in the Department of State, which will be responsible for coordinating the efforts of all federal programs to defend the human rights of the LGBTI community internationally; and
  • Continue to include a section on the LGBTI international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


Senator Markey is the original author of the bill and has been its lead sponsor since the 113th Congress. In addition to Senator Markey, there are 20 original co-sponsors in the Senate, including: Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kristin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash,), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

In addition to Congressman Lowenthal, the other co-sponsors in the House, include Representatives Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (VA-8),Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Robert A. Brady (PA-1), Matthew Cartwright (PA-17th), David Cicilline (RI-1), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Yvette Clarke (NY-9), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Charlie Crist (FL-13th), Judy Chu (CA-27), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Suzan Delbene (WA-1), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Debbie Dingell (IL-12), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Ruban Gellego (AZ-7), Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Dennis Heck (WA-10), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Jim Himes (CT-4), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Henry Johnson Jr. (GA-4), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Derick Kilmer (WA-6), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Betty McCollum (MN-4), Jim McGovern (MA-2), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Scott Peters (CA-52), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), Bobby Rush (IL-1), Jan Schakowsky (D-9), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9), Adam Smith (WA-9), Robert C. Scott (VA-3), Darren Soto (FL-9), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-1), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Niki Tsongas (MA-3), and John Yarmuth (KY-3).

The bill is endorsed by: Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, Council for Global Equality, American Jewish World Service, National Center for Transgender Equality, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the American Psychological Association