WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in both houses of Congress on Thursday introduced legislation to promote LGBT human rights as a priority in U.S. foreign policy.
The International Human Rights Defense Act, introduced by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California, both Democrats, would appoint a special envoy within the U.S. Department of State to coordinate efforts to prevent discrimination and advance the rights of LGBT people worldwide.
The bill would establish a Special Envoy position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to coordinate that effort.
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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 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,” said Markey.
If passed, the bicameral legislation 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.
- 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.
“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 Lowenthal.