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Bill introduced in Senate to affirm U.S. commitment to international LGBT rights

Saturday, June 14, 2014
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Alexander Zemlianichenko, APIn this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 file photo Russian gay rights activists march along a Moscow boulevard in downtown. Slogans read: ' Down with all Kinds of Fascism', ' Homophobia into the Fire!', ' For Peace without Racism ! ', and 'Bisexuals Against Fascism'.

Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP
In this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 file photo Russian gay rights activists march along a Moscow boulevard to protest the country’s anti-gay laws.

BOSTON — As the nation celebrates National LBGT Pride Month, U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, on Friday introduced legislation that would affirm LGBT human rights are a foreign policy priority for the U.S. government.

The International Human Rights Defense Act would direct 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.

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. The adoption of these laws has sped up in recent years, and the effects of discriminatory laws can be felt throughout society.

The Act would direct the State Department to take the following actions:

  • 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.

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“For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defending the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBT community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere,” said Markey.

“The International Human Rights Defense Act will foster a coordinated effort across the federal government and relevant agencies so we can meet the enormous challenge before us and work to ensure equality for all people around the globe,” he added.

Among the bill’s 24 co-sponsors: Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

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