New Bill Aims to Create U.S. Envoy on Global LGBT Rights

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey wants the U.S. to lead in the global struggle for LGBT rights.

BY Thom Senzee

June 13 2014 3:33 PM ET

Sen. Ed Markey

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that, if passed, would create a special diplomatic envoy whose job it would be to promote, protect and defend the rights of LGBT people throughout the world, BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder reports.

The simple fact of the bill's introduction — titled "International Human Rights Act of 2014"— is a huge step forward from just a few short years ago, when the administration of President George W. Bush worked to thwart movement on international human rights guarantees for LGBT people, notes Feder.

Unfortunately, finding support for a similar bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives could be a tall order.

Notwishtanding the long-run hurdles the bill faces in order to become law, Markey was upbeat, telling BuzzFeed, "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.”

The bill's list of U.S. and international supporters reads like a who's-who of nongovernmental organizations fighting for human rights, including Amnesty International, Council for Global Equality, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Freedom House, Human Rights First, American Jewish World Service, National Center for Transgender Equality, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and Advocates for Youth. 

"We applaud Senator Markey’s leadership on this important bill to ensure that protecting the human rights of LGBT people remains a key element of America’s foreign policy vision," said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. "At a time when nations around the world such as Uganda, Russia, and Brunei are enacting laws and policies that discriminate against LGBT people, it is critical that the State Department support one of the most important human rights initiatives of the Obama Administration to promote safety and freedom from persecution for all, including those targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Among the bill's provisions are requirements that the U.S. State Department "continues to maintain preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community as a foreign policy priority," and continues to work with LGBT-rights advocacy groups and the United Nations to improve the plights of LGBT people around the world.

LGBT organizations were quick to throw their support behind the first-of-its-kind effort, as well.

"In many nations around the world, [LGBT people]… persistently face the threat of harassment, discrimination, and violence, and we must do everything we can to ensure their rights are fully included in and championed by America’s foreign policy," HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement. "Passing this legislation is an important step in that direction."

Tags: World, Politics

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