Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) -- two champions of equality -- have reintroduced legislation in Congress to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQ people around the world. With 20 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than 60 co-sponsors in the House, the International Human Rights Defense Act would codify the position of Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons at the U.S. State Department, and enshrine U.S. policies to help protect the human rights of LGBTQ people around the globe into law.
“This special envoy position at the State Department will be a global model for defending LGBTQ rights around the world,” said Markey in a press release. “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.”
The International Human Rights Defense Act has been introduced in each of the last two Congresses but has yet to pass. Nonetheless, former Secretary of State John Kerry took initiative under President Obama to appoint career diplomat Randy Berry as our nation’s first-ever LGBTI Special Envoy in February 2015, a position Berry filled with great success until the end of that Administration.
“Members of Congress have sent a clear message that the State Department and the Trump Administration must lead on LGBTQ human rights, and appoint the LGBTI special envoy now to help put an end to persecution of LGBTQ people,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director. “It is long past time for this administration to make this appointment, and to take leadership in advancing human rights around the world, for all people.”
The last year has seen an unfortunate spike in attacks on LGBTQ people in places like Chechnya, Egypt, Indonesia and elsewhere around the world. It is essential that the U.S. take a leading role in combating human rights abuses against LGBTQ people around the globe, but the Trump-Pence White House has remained shamefully silent. The failure of both the president and vice president to condemn the atrocities publicly is deafening. Further, despite promises to appoint an LGBTI Special Envoy, neither Secretary of State Mike Pompeo nor his predecessor have done so.
In addition to creating the special envoy position, the International Human Rights Defense Act would require that the State Department:
- Prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community;
- Devise a global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBTQ community;
- Coordinate with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector, to promote international LGBTQ human rights; and
- Continue to include a section on LGBTQ international human rights in the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
2017 marked the most serious crisis for international human rights and democracy in decades, according to the nonpartisan watchdog Freedom House, due in large part to the Trump-Pence Administration’s failure to maintain the United States’ long held international status “as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy.”
HRC applauds Rep. Lowenthal and Sen. Markey for their leadership and calls on members of Congress to urge the Trump Administration to take action to protect the human rights of all people - no matter who they are or whom they love.
To learn more about HRC’s international work, check out www.hrc.org/global.