The Global Magnitsky Act, a vital bill that would give the U.S. government the authority to freeze the U.S. assets of, and deny U.S. visas to, anyone who has committed "gross violations of human rights" against anti-corruption activists or human rights defenders around the world, is currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was named for the anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison, and passed the Senate late last year.
While lawmakers have not included explicit language in the bill covering LGBTQ people, HRC and other organizations have pressed Congressional lawmakers to make it clear that the bill cover LGBTQ people nonetheless. And in a colloquy, or prepared dialogue, in the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week, lawmakers clarified that the bill would indeed cover LGBTQ people, which would send a clear message abroad that the U.S. will not tolerate human rights abuses against LGBTQ people. Should the bill become law, those who persecute people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity abroad may be blocked from entering the U.S. or from using U.S. financial institutions.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who is both a member of the Committee and a Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, began the colloquy by referring to the myriad threats that LGBTQ people face around the world, from torture in The Gambia to hateful rhetoric in Indonesia and gruesome executions in ISIL-controlled areas.
"Because of the particularly heinous nature of the violations routinely committed against LGBT communities around the world," he said, "I intended to offer an amendment to this legislation, clarifying that the persecution of the LGBT individuals and those protecting their rights are included (in the legislation).”
He concluded, however, by saying that it was his understanding that LGBTQ people were already included in the bill, making his amendment unnecessary.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), then answered that LGBTQ people were most certainly covered by the bill.
"I want to make clear that the internationally-recognized human rights referenced in the Global Magnitsky Act apply to all people, including those who identify as LGBT,” he said.
The senior Republican lawmaker then referred to a number of "truly severe human rights violations, some directed at people solely on the basis of their professed or perceived sexual orientation or gender," from Africa to Russia, Iran and recently Bangladesh, where a USAID employee and gay rights activist were brutally murdered just last month.
Royce also added that his committee would soon hold a hearing focusing on "the alarming threats to fundamental human rights worldwide," including threats to LGBTQ people.
You can view the Committee's complete meeting here, with the seven-minute colloquy beginning at 52 minutes.
The bill passed the Senate last December and, following its unanimous approval in the Foreign Affairs Committee, will now be sent to the full House of Representatives for its approval.
HRC will continue tracking the bill and pushing for its approval in the House.