Sen. Markey Wants to Establish Special LGBT Envoy at State Department

By Tatiana Lozano | June 23, 2014 | 5:12pm EDT


Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) (AP photo)

( -  A bill introduced June 12 by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), would establish a special envoy at the State Department to coordinate America’s “global response” on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and allow LGBT individuals “who have a well-founded fear of seek protection in the United States.”

The International Human Rights Defense Act of 2014 would reinforce the Obama administration’s already established foreign policy position on LGBT rights, including the public funding of overseas LGBT groups.

In addition, the bill would require annual congressional briefings on “the status of the human rights of LGBT people internationally” and institute a “central repository of data on all United States programs, projects, and activities that relate to prevention and response to discrimination and violence against LGBT people.”

“Eighty-two countries prohibit the public support of the LGBT community, promote homophobia across society, or criminalize homosexuality. That is equal to more than 40 percent of the United Nations Member States,” the bill says.

“We’re not going to sit around and permit what we have fought for so hard to be undone,” Secretary of State John Kerry said. “And as I said earlier, LGBT rights are human rights and human rights are LGBT rights, so we will protect them, period.”

Secretary of State John Kerry  (Image: C-SPAN)

Kerry reiterated this stance Thursday at an official event with the State Department’s LGBT community when he said that the U.S. expects other countries to recognize the same-sex partners of its diplomats.

“All of us right now are more than aware of...the trend if you will, in some places for anti-LGBT laws that are metastasizing in various places,“ Kerry told them. “And for some it’s, obviously, easy to get alarmed by that. But let me just share this with you: I don’t think it’s time to get alarmed. I think it’s time to get active.”

However, critics believe the legislation would do further harm to the U.S.' international relations.

“Markey's bill would codify Obama's failed foreign policy approach,” Wendy Wright, vice president for government relations and communications at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, told

Citing American cuts to Uganda’s health and anti-terrorism projects based on its incarceration of LGBT individuals, Wright asserted, “The Obama administration already prioritizes LGBT issues in its foreign policy. We can see the impact.

"The U.S. cut off aid to health clinics and cancelled military exercises with Uganda, a key ally in fighting Islamic extremists, because the African nation reinforced a law partly in response to the U.S.' clumsy, heavy-handed pushing of LGBT issues," Wright pointed out.

“The U.S. should treat all people will dignity. Prioritizing LGBT rights in foreign policy has resulted in downplaying the horrific persecution of Christians, denying aid to innocent people, and jeopardizing the fight against terrorists,” she added.

A State Department spokesperson would provide no further comment on the bill.

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