More than two dozen members of Congress joined Senator Edward J. Markey in urging President Obama to include discussions about LGBT rights in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit agenda. The summit, which will be held today through Wednesday, is the first of its kind. More than 50 African leaders will be in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of important issues of mutual interest to the United States and the African continent, including national security, expanding economic opportunity, and public health.

“This historic gathering will serve as an opportunity to stress the importance of human rights protections at a time when we see a backsliding of LGBT protections internationally,” Senator Markey's letter states. “It also provides an opportunity to make clear that the persecution of LGBT individuals is bad for business and undermines investment in Africa.”

In June, Senator Markey introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act. This bill would create a position within the State Department that is specific responsible for promoting and coordinating LGBT rights across the globe

Advocacy groups have also been stressing the importance of discussing the struggle of LGBT Africans at the summit. Earlier this week, HRC Foundation teamed up with Human Rights First to release a joint report on LGBT rights in Africa. Of the 37 African nations with laws criminalizing homosexuality, leaders from 32 have been invited to the summit. 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. In particular, there has been a systematic targeting of LGBT Africans, most notably in Uganda and Nigeria.

And last week, HRC and coalition partners hosted a reception for young African leaders who were in DC for the Young African Leaders Initiative

Stay tuned to the HRC’s blog for more updates on the summit’s events.

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