Archive for December, 2019

GLOBE Act Introduced in the Senate

See the Senate press release here.

U.S. leadership on human rights was in evidence again today, on International Human Rights Day, when Senator Markey (D-Mass.), joined by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the GLOBE (Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality) Act. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.).  The bill sets out a comprehensive vision for global leadership in support of human rights for LGBTI individuals everywhere.

Upon introduction, Senator Markey stressed that “We must recommit the United States to the defense of human rights globally.  We must reorient our human rights foreign policy to be in line with U.S. values.”  Senator Shaheen added, “The GLOBE Act sends a strong message to the international community — LGBTI rights are human rights, and the United States will continue to defend those rights.” That is a sentiment shared earlier this year in the House introduction of a companion bill that already enjoys almost 70 co-sponsors.

Over the past decade, the State Department’s annual country human rights reports have documented — with unsettling consistency — abuses, discrimination and exclusion directed against LGBTI people for no reason but their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.  The GLOBE Act would tackle these indignities by directing that an array of U.S. diplomatic and development tools be deployed toward them.  It equally would ensure that the U.S. Government stand with its LGBTI employees when they are assigned abroad in support of American interests.

The timing of Senator Markey’s bill could not be of greater import.  To its disgrace, the Trump Administration has cold-shouldered human rights by embracing unethical dictators, mal-treating would-be immigrants, and bringing U.S. refugee acceptances to a post-war low.  It has withdrawn our country from the UN Human Rights Council, knee-capping any effort to right the imbalances of that body.  To deny the legitimacy of transgender people, it has sought to scuttle any use of the term “gender” in UN documents.  And the State Department’s new “Unalienable Rights Commission” threatens to upend any proper understanding of the fundaments of human rights:  that all people are created equal and are entitled to equal protections under any government’s laws.

Republican support at the bill’s introduction is lacking.  We expected more of a party that once stood for the very freedoms and opportunities the bill would enhance, and we call on Republican senators to recommit to human rights leadership as well.  In the interim, we salute Senator Markey and those who have co-sponsored the GLOBE Act, and we look forward to the conversation that the bill should entail.

Richard Spenser, Donald Trump, and Marshall Billingslea

Marshall Billingslea

Much of the attention surrounding President Trump’s ouster of Navy Secretary Richard Spenser has focused on Trump’s disregard for the order and discipline that Special Operations and other military forces must respect.

We have a different optic.

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher’s demotion for having posed for photographs with the corpse of a dead ISIS fighter — an action that clearly violates military rules and the laws of war — strikes us as reasonable.  But Gallagher’s photo also refreshes the outrage surrounding the Bush Administration’s humiliation of Abu Ghraib prisoners — and Trump’s dismissal of that action, in turn, further underscores his lack of moral compass on the question of war crimes.

This is a man, after all, who had no qualms about nominating Gina Haspell — involved directly in CIA “secret prison” torture during that period — to serve as CIA Director.  And Marshall Billingslea — now awaiting confirmation to serve as the Trump State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights — is credibly reported to have pressed for even more abusive measures to be used against ISIS prisoners than those that already have brought international opprobrium to the United States.

The President’s forgiving attitude toward U.S. officials arguably complicit in war crimes makes it hard to hold others accountable — e.g., those responsible for the humiliations and murders of LGBT Chechens.  It cheapens our country and abandons our human rights leadership capacity.

Before the Senate acts on the Billingslea nomination, his Senate supporters might take time to watch “The Report” — a recent movie that chillingly explores efforts by two U.S. Administrations to hide the shameful human rights abuses committed by the United States in the aftermath of the 2001 World Trade Center bombings.

Mr. Billingslea’s support for those abuses — and his reported advocacy of other, even more stringent “enhanced interrogation” war crimes — make him unfit to serve, with any credibility, as our country’s senior-most human rights-dedicated official.

We again urge the Senate to send Billingslea’s nomination back to the White House.  And as for President Trump, a little history lesson is overdue — and with it, perhaps some training on moral leadership.


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