By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com May 23 2014 3:40 PM ET
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is urging the United States to politically pressure the Southeast Asian nation of Brunei to rescind its antigay penal code.
Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin has received pledges from at least 20 other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who have agreed to sign a draft letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. trade representative Michael Froman to exclude Brunei from Pacific free trade talks until its human rights violations are addressed, reports Buzzfeed.
The sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is instituting sharia law, an Islamic code that will ultimately impose capital punishment, including death by stoning, for homosexuality and adultery.
"The United States is committed to protecting the rights of religious minorities, LGBT individuals and women across the globe,” the draft reads. “Brunei’s adoption of the revised penal code legalizes violence against its citizens, constituting torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. The United States must make it clear that we will not tolerate such abuses.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed trade agreement of 12 nations, including the United States and Brunei, that is currently under negotiation. Pocan and other lawmakers, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Louise Slaughter, Rosa DeLauro, and Henry Waxman, want the U.S. to use its economic clout to “address human rights atrocities” like those in Brunei.
“As the world’s largest economy, the United States holds a significant place in world affairs and must use this position to address human rights atrocities in countries like Brunei,” the letter concludes. “According with all applicable rules and regulations, we urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition before the United States enter into any trade negotiations."
State Department officials recently told Buzzfeed that Brunei’s laws would not factor into the trade talks, but the U.S. will be “closely monitoring how new rules” in Brunei will be executed.
Many celebrities, including Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, and Lisa Vanderpump, have spoken out against Brunei’s penal code and have advocated for a boycott of the sultan’s properties, which include two Los Angeles landmarks, the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air.