U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and 23 Senators in a letter calling on President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) human rights within the U.S. Department of State, in line with the position proposed in the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2014 (S. 2472), which Murray co-sponsored in June. The Special Envoy would serve within the State Department as a principal advisor to the Secretary of State on LGBT issues.
“As many nations condone discrimination and hatred against LGBT people, the United States must stand with the LGBT community in the struggle for equality around the globe,” said Murray. “Appointing a Special Envoy for LGBT rights at the Department of State will help our foreign policy leaders meet the challenges before us as they work to ensure equality for all people around the globe.”
While the rights of the LGBT community have been supported and strengthened in the United States under the Obama administration, internationally more than 80 nations around the world have laws that criminalize homosexuality, prohibit public support for the LGBT community, or promote homophobia. In seven countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. Recently, there is a trend of countries passing barbaric laws that deliberately try to persecute the LGBT community. This past year alone Uganda and Nigeria passed new laws criminalizing homosexuality with potential punishment of life imprisonment. A number of people have already been arrested and tried under these new statutes.
“We believe the time has come to take the next step. To adequately address the challenges posed by these new discriminatory laws, there needs to be coordination of action across the federal government,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “That is why we are calling on you to create a Special Envoy within the State Department who would serve as principal advisor to the Secretary of State on LGBT issues and can coordinate our efforts to resist these discriminatory laws.”
The letter also is signed by Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).