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Home / Press Release / Bipartisan International Human Rights Defense Act Introduced in the House
July 16, 2014

Bipartisan International Human Rights Defense Act Introduced in the House

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomes the introduction of The International Human Rights Defense Act in the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) and Rep. Gibson (R-NY). The bill, which was first introduced in the Senate (S. 2472) last month by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), directs the Department of State to establish a Special Envoy in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor responsible for foreign policy initiatives to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

“Protecting the human rights of LGBT people is not a partisan issue. We applaud Rep. Tierney and Rep. Gibson for their leadership in the bipartisan introduction of this important bill in the House,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “In many parts of the world including Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, and the Caribbean, people face state-sanctioned discrimination, persecution, and violence based solely on their identities. The creation of this new position in the State Department would ensure that promoting the protection of the rights of LGBT people is a permanent part of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.”

“While the United States has been making strides toward promoting and achieving LGBT equality here in our country, this is unfortunately not the case globally. We must lead the fight to help end discrimination and secure basic human rights for LGBT individuals around the world,” said Congressman John Tierney. “The International Human Rights Defense Act would bolster America’s commitment to the international LGBT community by facilitating federal government coordination on making the promotion of international LGBT human rights a priority. As the United States continues its steady movement toward providing fundamental human rights for all people regardless of who they love, it is our obligation to fight for those same rights for LGBT individuals facing hardships in other countries.”

“I am proud to join with Reps. Tierney, Hanna, Cicilline, Esty, Lowenthal, McGovern and Schakowsky to introduce this important legislation.  For the first time in the history of our country, we are aiming to establish a concrete policy and process by which we can best deploy our considerable diplomatic clout and resources towards protecting victims of LGBT discrimination,” said Congressman Chris Gibson.  “On our best day, other countries want to be like us, and for that reason it is crucial that we lead by example with our founding principles of human dignity, freedom, and equal protection.  I encourage all of my colleagues to join us in this effort.”

The International Human Rights Defense Act calls for the Department of State to:

  • Continue to maintain preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community as a foreign policy priority;
  • 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;
  • Coordinate efforts to promote international LGBT human rights with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector; and
  • Make permanent the current practice of including LGBT rights violations in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.

For more information or to speak with Gaylord contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5269.