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International LGBT Act Reintroduced into U.S. Congress

On Thursday, U.S. lawmakers introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act, a bill designed to protect and promote the rights of the international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and in the House by Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California, both Democrats. The legislation would appoint a special envoy within the U.S. Department of State to coordinate efforts to prevent discrimination and advance the rights of LGBT people worldwide.

"International Human Rights Defense Act - Directs the Secretary of State to establish in the Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Peoples who shall: (1) direct U.S. government efforts regarding human rights abuses against the LGBT community internationally and the advancement of human rights for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) people in U.S. foreign policy, and (2) represent the United States internationally in bilateral and multilateral engagement on these matters.

Directs the Special Envoy to develop or update annually for six years a U.S. global strategy to prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

Authorizes the Secretary and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide assistance to prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against LGBT people."

“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," Sen. Markey said.

The same bill was introduced by Markey in 2014, but never reached a vote. One wonders if the Bill will recieve any movement with an all Republican majority, where it seems Republicans do not have a majority who favor LGBTI rightts at home, let alone abroad.

Its re-introduction this year comes as talks about the initiative are underway at the State Department, a spokeswoman for Markey told Reuters. "The Senator is proud of the level of support and the high level of attention to this especially within the State Department," Gisele Barry said."

“We must do what we can as a nation to enforce the precept that all human beings ... 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 Lowenthal, the bill's co-sponsor, in the statement.

As LGBT rights, and especially same-sex couples' right to marry, gained momentum across the United States throughout 2014, Anti-LGBT legislation and persecution is increasing in many countries the world.

In 2014, Nigeria, The Gambia and Uganda passed onerous anti-homosexuality legislation, and together with other African countries continued state sancitoned persecution of LGBTI people.

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