On Friday Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act, a bill that would direct the Department of State to make international LGBT rights a foreign policy priority. The bill calls for establishing a position in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, responsible for coordinating inter-bureau and inter-agency efforts to prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against the international LGBT community.
“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,” said Senator Markey in a statement released by his office. “The International Human Rights Defense Act will foster a coordinated effort across the federal government and relevant agencies so we can meet the enormous challenge before us and work to ensure equality for all people around the globe.”
“In some countries homophobic policies discourage HIV testing and linkage to care, which will impede further progress in addressing the global HIV pandemic,” said Dr. Kenneth Mayer of Fenway Health, where Senator Markey joined with several human rights groups to announce the bill on Friday.
“Senator Markey’s bill enhances the US’s ability to monitor and speak out about human rights abuses that affect sexual and gender minority populations globally,” Mayer said. “This is an important piece of legislation because it recognizes that US taxpayer dollars should not be used to support repression in civil society anywhere in the world.” Dr. Mayer also serves as co-chair of IDSA’s Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog.
The bill, which currently has 24 co-sponsors, directs the State Department to do the following:
- Make preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community a foreign policy priority and devise a global strategy to achieve those goals.
- Coordinate efforts to promote international LGBT human rights with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector.
- 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.
- Continue to include a section on LGBT international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.
Senator Markey is a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Stay tuned to Science Speaks for updates on this legislation.