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.
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.