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Senator Markey and Congressman Lowenthal reintroduce legislation affirming U.S. commitment to international LGBTQI rights

Legislation creates a permanent LGBTQI Special Envoy at the State Department

Court gavel on rainbow flag colored pages of the United States Constitution -- gay rights concept

Today in Washington, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today announced they will reintroduce the International Human Rights Defense Act, a bicameral effort to reaffirm the United States’ role as a world leader in the promotion of LGBTQI equality.

Nearly 70 nations around the world have enacted laws that criminalize homosexuality, as abuses in Russia, Tanzania, Uganda, Indonesia, Central America, and elsewhere demonstrate a continued threat to the fundamental rights of LGBTQI communities in every region of the world.

The coronavirus pandemic has also exacerbated the threat to LGBTQI communities, who frequently lack access to adequate health care, often live in unsafe or unwelcoming environments, and have faced discrimination and stigma associated with the spread of COVID-19.

At the urging of Senator Markey and Congressman Lowenthal, then-Secretary of State John Kerry first appointed a Special Envoy for LGBTQI rights in 2015. While the Trump administration left the position vacant, President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have committed to filling this role early in the Biden administration. The International Human Rights Defense Act would make the special envoy position permanent and allow for the position to be named at the rank of Ambassador.

Senator Edward J. Markey

“The United States must reaffirm its support for the promotion and protection of LGBTQI rights around the world and reengage as a leader on these issues after four years of harmful and discriminatory policies,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This legislation will make it clear that the United States is committed to protecting the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The COVID-19 crisis has put LGBQTI communities all around the world at greater risk and this moment requires a concerted and global effort to recommit to the protection of human rights everywhere.”

“The United States has a chance to once again be a global leader on human rights issues. We must promote and defend our fundamental values of equality, equity, and diversity, both at home and abroad,” said Congressman Lowenthal, a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Executive Committee. “We cannot halt the extension of these values at our borders. The United States must continue to defend the innate rights of all human beings across the globe — including the LGBTQI community — to live, love, and prosper. We can and must do no less.”

Follow the link to read a full copy of the legislation.

The International Human Rights Defense Act would direct the Department of State to renew efforts in defending the human rights of LGBTQI people around the world. Specifically, the act would direct the Department of State to:

  • Prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against the LGBTQI community;
  • Devise a global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBTQI community;
  • Coordinate with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector, to promote international LGBTQI human rights;
  • Create the permanent position of “Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBTQI People” in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at the Department of State, which will be responsible for coordinating the efforts of all federal programs to defend the human rights of the LGBTQI community internationally, and allow for that position to be appointed at the rank of Ambassador;
  • Track and report on all U.S. Government programs, projects, and activities that relate to prevention and response to criminalization, discrimination, and violence against LGBTQI people internationally; and
  • Continue to include a section on LGBTQI international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.