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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Welcomes Reintroduction of International Human Rights Defense Act
January 29, 2015

Human Rights First Welcomes Reintroduction of International Human Rights Defense Act

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomes the re-introduction of The International Human Rights Defense Act, a bill to direct 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. The bill was introduced today in the Senate by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and with bipartisan support in the House by Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).

“Events of the past few months only reinforce the need for a Special Envoy for the rights of LGBT people," said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord. "Around the world, governments continue to introduce and pass legislation designed to criminalize and marginalize LGBT communities. In fact the very gains the community has made may be fueling a simultaneous crackdown. We cannot afford to go backwards now, and we welcome the re-introduction of this important bill that would ensure that the United States continues to make  safety and freedom from persecution for all a foreign policy priority."

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
  • Continue to require a section on LGBT international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.

“When President Obama addressed the nation and committed to defending the human rights of the LGBT community, we made that commitment to the world,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “With the rights of the LGBT community under attack around the globe, we must stand hand-in-hand with them in the struggle for recognition and equality everywhere. It is vital to have a dedicated position at the State Department spearheading that effort.  The International Human Rights Defense Act will promote a coordinated effort across the federal government to support our position as a model for defending LGBT and human rights around the world, and I thank Rep. Lowenthal for his partnership on this important legislation.”

“We must do what we can as a nation to enforce the precept that all human beings, regardless of where they live, are entitled to a basic set of human rights which include the right to love who they choose without fear of punishment or death. LGBT rights are human rights,” said Rep. Lowenthal.

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