Tierney Introduces Bipartisan International Human Rights Defense Act

John F. TierneyFrom the Office of John F. Tierney

Bill would make LGBT equality a critical U.S. international human rights priority

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman John F. Tierney (D-MA), along with Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY), introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act. This bipartisan legislation would direct the U.S. Department of State to make international LGBT human rights a foreign policy priority and would establish a position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to be responsible for coordinating that effort.

“While the United States has been making strides toward promoting and achieving LGBT equality here in our country, this is unfortunately not the case globally. We must lead the fight to help end discrimination and secure basic human rights for LGBT individuals around the world,” said Congressman John Tierney. “The International Human Rights Defense Act would bolster America’s commitment to the international LGBT community by facilitating federal government coordination on making the promotion of international LGBT human rights a priority. As the United States continues its steady movement toward providing fundamental human rights for all people regardless of who they love, it is our obligation to fight for those same rights for LGBT individuals facing hardships in other countries.”

 “I am proud to join with Reps. Tierney, Hanna, Cicilline, Esty,Lowenthal, McGovern and Schakowsky to introduce this important legislation.  For the first time in the history of our country, we are aiming to establish a concrete policy and process by which we can best deploy our considerable diplomatic clout and resources towards protecting victims of LGBT discrimination,” said Congressman Chris Gibson.  “On our best day, other countries want to be like us, and for that reason it is crucial that we lead by example with our founding principles of human dignity, freedom, and equal protection.  I encourage all of my colleagues to join us in this effort.”

“Discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation is unacceptable anywhere it happens,” Congressman Richard Hanna said. “In the United States we are continuing to work toward full equality and tolerance for all Americans, including our LGBT friends, family members and coworkers. There is still much work to be done at home and around the world. As a beacon of freedom and opportunity for all people, the U.S. must continue to play a leading role in this effort. No one should face unjust treatment – or be classified as a criminal – based on who they love. It is a basic human right that all people deserve. I am pleased to join Reps. Tierney and Gibson in this effort and I look forward to more bipartisan support from our colleagues in the House.”

“While the United States has made huge strides forward for LGBT equality, we know that the same is not true in many countries where LGBT people face harassment, bigotry, and violence on a daily basis,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director for the Human Rights Campaign. “Global human rights – including human rights for LGBT people – must be a top priority of the U.S. Government.  The Human Rights Campaign is proud to support the International Human Rights Defense Act, which would build an unprecedented framework into U.S. diplomacy to protect LGBT rights worldwide.  We thank Congressman Tierney for his leadership on this important issue.”

“Around the globe, LGBT people face threats, violence, and discrimination on a daily basis,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director, Steven Hawkins. “The United States can and must play a lead role in ending the human rights abuses that the LGBT community faces around the world. The International Human Rights Defense Act will help to ensure that the United States lives up to its global commitment to protect and advance LGBT rights as human rights.”

“Around the world, LGBT individuals are denied the fundamental freedoms that every American holds dear, and the universal human rights their governments have pledged to respect.  A Special Envoy can work with other countries to strengthen these freedoms and commitments, and to ensure that cultural differences are not an excuse for discrimination and abuse.  The Council for Global Equality welcomes this bill’s introduction and urges its speedy passage,” said Amb. (ret.) Michael Guest, Senior Advisor, Council for Global Equality.

 “We support Rep. Tierney for taking leadership in the House on the issue of rights for LGBTI persons,” said Chloe Schwenke, vice president for global programs at Freedom House. “Freedom House welcomes the genuine bipartisan base of support for fundamental human rights performance as covered by this bill. The legislation, which is the House companion of the International Human Rights Defense Act introduced by Sen. Ed Markey in the Senate last month, would solidify the United States’ commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of LGBTI people around the world.  It is vital that the United States support these communities through foreign assistance and diplomacy, and this legislation would give the State Department and USAID additional tools to do so.”

The International Human Rights Defense Act is supported by a number of prominent equality organizations including Amnesty International USA, Council for Global Equality, RFK Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Freedom House, Human Rights First, American Jewish World Service, National Center for Transgender Equality, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and Advocates for Youth.

Similar legislation was recently filed in the Senate by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA). A full list of original cosponsors: Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

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