Legislation establishes permanent position in State Department to coordinate efforts to promote international LGBTI human rights


Washington (March 29, 2019) – This week, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) reintroduced the International Human Rights Defense Act in the House and Senate, a bicameral effort to reaffirm the United States’ role as a world leader in the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) equality.


Nearly 70 nations around the world have enacted laws that criminalize homosexuality. Abuses in Chechnya, Tanzania, and elsewhere demonstrate a continued threat posed to the fundamental rights of LGBTI communities in every region of the world.   


At the urging of Senator Markey and Congressman Lowenthal, then-Secretary of State John Kerry first appointed a Special Envoy for LGBTI rights in 2015. This position is currently vacant under the Trump administration. The International Human Rights Defense Act would make permanent this special envoy position.


“Despite some advances, LGBTI persons around the world remain vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, violence, and persecution,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The United States must continue to stand up for anyone whose human rights are being violated, and that especially includes the LGBTI community.  I am grateful for Congressman Lowenthal’s partnership on this legislation, as we continue to push for the creation of permanent special envoy position to uphold America’s commitments as a leader in promoting the rights and dignities of all.”


“To promote our fundamental values of equality, equity, and diversity, we cannot go half way at home and we certainly cannot halt the extension of these values at our border,” said Congressman Lowenthal. “Our nation has what I see as a major role in defending the innate rights of all human beings across the globe—including the LGBT community—to live, love, and prosper.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


The International Human Rights Defense Act 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.


Senate original cosponsors: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).