Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Edward J. Markey
Posted on 2015-01-29
MARKEY (for himself, Mrs. Shaheen, Mrs. Murray, Ms.
Warren, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Merkley, Mr. Cardin, Mr. Coons, Mr.
Franken, Ms. Mikulski, Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Whitehouse, Mrs.
Gillibrand, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Wyden, Mr. Schumer, Mr.
Brown, Mrs. Boxer, Mrs. Feinstein, Mr. Booker, Ms. Cantwell,
Mr. Murphy, Ms. Hirono, Mr. Casey, Mr. Schatz, and Mr.
S. 302. A bill to establish in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights,
and Labor of the Department of State a Special Envoy for the Human
Rights of LGBT Peoples; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Mr. MARKEY. Mr. President, throughout my career, I have been proud to stand up for equality for all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. While I have seen much progress with respect for the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, LGBT, community within the United States, the struggle for equality and justice abroad remains significant. Many countries have laws that criminalize homosexuality, prohibit public support of the LGBT community and persecute those who identify as LGBT. To adequately address the challenges posed by these discriminatory laws, the United States must make LGBT rights a priority in all of our foreign policy and there needs to be dedicated position responsible for coordinating that effort. That is why, today, I am introducing the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2015, which directs the Department of State to make international LGBT human rights a foreign policy priority and would establish a Special Envoy position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor responsible for coordinating that effort.
Over the past few years, conditions have deteriorated for LGBT individuals in many regions of the world. Russia enacted a ban on arbitrarily-defined ``homosexual propaganda,'' endangering the position of many LGBT individuals and their allies. Russia's law has been the basis for similar legislation threatened or introduced in countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus. In December 2013, India's Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and reinstated the criminalization of homosexuality in the second most populous nation on earth. Nigeria, Uganda, and Gambia have all passed laws that make homosexuality a crime punishable with life imprisonment. While Uganda's law was overturned by its Constitutional Court, leaders have pledged to pursue similar legislation. Conditions for transgender individuals are particularly troubling in Brazil, where 113 transgender individuals were murdered in a 1-year period.
In light of these alarming developments, I am introducing the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2015. It is critical that the United States fight for LGBT equality both at [[Page S655]] home and abroad. The Obama Administration has taken great steps in affirming and strengthening the United States' commitment to LGBT equality as a critical component of our international human rights objectives. However, our government does not yet have a comprehensive strategy for addressing LGBT discrimination overseas and we lack a central individual office responsible for inter-bureau and inter-agency coordination to achieve these objectives.
______ By Mr. THUNE (for himself, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Heller, Mrs. McCaskill, Ms. Klobuchar, Ms. Ayotte, Mr. Moran, and Mr. Blumenthal): S. 304. A bill to improve motor vehicle safety by encouraging the sharing of certain information; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.