Bill to Ensure US Foreign Policy Promotes LGBTI Rights Reintroduced

Two lawmakers on Monday reintroduced legislation that would ensure U.S. foreign policy promotes LGBTI rights.

The International Human Rights Defense Act — which U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced in their respective chambers of Congress — would also codify into law the position of special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTI rights abroad. A Human Rights Campaign press release notes Markey and Lowenthal have previously introduced the measure.

“To promote our fundamental values of equality, equity, and diversity, we cannot go half way at home and we certainly cannot halt the extension of these values at our border,” said Lowenthal in the HRC press release. “Our nation has what I see as a major role in defending the innate rights of all human beings across the globe — including the LGBT community — to live, love and prosper.”

Then-President Obama in 2011 directed agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBTI rights abroad.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry in early 2015 announced the creation of the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTI rights abroad within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The State Department’s website currently notes Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby oversees “LGBTI rights” and other issues. Busby’s biography does not specifically say whether he is the special envoy.

The State Department has continued to support LGBTI rights abroad since President Trump took office, even through activists in the U.S. and around the world remain highly critical of the White House’s record.

A State Department spokesperson last week told the Washington Blade the U.S. “is concerned” with the Bruneian government’s decision to implement provisions of a new penal code that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Trump administration last month announced an initiative led by openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

A State Department spokesperson in September 2018 told the Blade the U.S. “welcomes”the India Supreme Court decision that struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. The U.S. Embassy in Cuba earlier in the year tied a rainbow flag to its fence in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

A Pride flag is attached to the fence around the U.S. Embassy in Havana on May 13, 2018, in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who was grilled over his previous anti-LGBTI statements during his 2018 confirmation hearing — has issued statements that acknowledged IDAHOBiT and Pride month. HRC, along with other advocacy groups and members of Congress, continue to urge Pompeo and Trump to publicly condemn the ongoing anti-LGBTI crackdown in Chechnya.

State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino on Tuesday in a statement said Brunei’s decision to implement its new penal code “runs counter to its international human rights obligations.” HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy in his organization’s press release notes “the silence once again from this White House” over this issue.

“With the awful news recently from Brunei and the silence once again from this White House, we are once again grateful that human rights champions in Congress are stepping up to demonstrate that our nation should be better than this,” said Stacy. “With so many countries trying to punish LGBTQ people just for being who they are, it is crucial that we step up, not back, in defending their human rights and dignity.”

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade.