Washington, DC – In the wake of President Obama’s commitment in the State of the Union to defend the human rights of the LGBT community, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has co-sponsored bicameral legislation to affirm that LGBT human rights are a foreign policy priority for the U.S. government. The International Human Rights Defense Act would direct the State Department 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. The legislation would establish a Special Envoy position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to coordinate that effort. 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.
Specifically, the International Human Rights Defense Act directs 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.
Casey was also joined by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-Wa), Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma),Dick Durbin (D-Il), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
The legislation is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, Advocates For Youth, American Jewish World Service, Human Rights First, Freedom House, Equality Federation, Council for Global Equality, Anti-Defamation League, Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG National, Transgender Law Center, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.