Archive for the 'Congress' Category

December 2018 Newsletter

** The Council for Global Equality respectfully offers this edition of “Global Equality Today” – a periodic newsletter to inform Hill staff of priority policy issues impacting LGBTI people abroad.

December 2018

Happy Human Rights Week (read the Presidential Proclamation of Human Rights Week here). December 10 marked the 70-year anniversary of U.S. leadership in drafting and championing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Secretary Pompeo released a statement recognizing that: “The Declaration’s fundamental principles remain as relevant today as they were seventy years ago.”  Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi marked the anniversary with a statement reminding us that: “As Americans we have a duty to maintain our critical leadership in the defense of human rights both at home and around the world.”  The Council is proud to recognize Human Rights Week by supporting Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and other leading members of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House LGBT Equality Caucus in their introduction of the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act (H.R. 7291).

CONGRESSIONAL ACTION

 

 House Introduces GLOBE Act to Advance LGBTI Equality Abroad

In recognition of Human Rights Week in the United States, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) joined foreign affairs and LGBT equality leaders in Congress to introduce the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act (H.R. 7291).  The Council is working with Sen. Markey and other Senate human rights champions to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.  This comprehensive “vision bill” provides a broad roadmap for U.S. leadership to advance the human rights of LGBTI and other vulnerable minority communities around the world.  Upon introduction, Rep. Titus noted: “The GLOBE Act builds on the accomplishments of the Obama Administration and the work of various members, groups, and coalitions to establish a broad set of directives to reinstate our leadership in advancing equality.”  Read the Congressional press release here.  And read the Council’s endorsement and a blog explaining the bill’s impact here.  Please contact the office of Rep. Titus to co-sponsor.

LGBTI Funding Hangs in Balance in Ongoing Budget Negotiations

The Senate Appropriations Committee allocated global LGBTI funding in its report accompanying the 2019 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Bill (S.3108).  The Council calls on members of the House and Senate to include that language in the omnibus appropriation bill that is being negotiated.  The funding includes $3.5 million for LGBTI issues within USAID and $250,000 for the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.  (Although Secretary Pompeo pledged to re-fill that position during his April 2018 confirmation hearing, he has yet to do so as of this writing, eight months later.)  The report also directs the State Department to allocate additional resources to the Global Equality Fund and to continue reporting on LGBTI issues in its annual Human Rights Reports.

Congress Denounces Treatment of Vulnerable LGBTI Refugees in the “Caravan” at the Southern Border

On social media, Members of Congress have recognized the life-threatening circumstances of LGBTI refugees seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border, including the LGBT Equality Caucus, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and  Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY).  Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM) also sent a letter demanding answers after the tragic death in U.S. immigration detention of Roxana Hernandez, a transgender asylum seeker.

Senate Confirms Former Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons as Ambassador to Nepal

In September, the Senate confirmed Randy Berry, formerly Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Nepal.  Ambassador Berry, a career Foreign Service officer, was an effective Special Envoy and a strong civil society partner.  The Council welcomes his confirmation to a country that has become a regional leader on LGBTI issues.

Retiring Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen Challenges Her Colleagues on LGBTI Rights

In a powerful speech describing her support for LGBTI equality in the U.S. Congress, retiring Congresswoman and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) concluded with a final plea to her House colleagues: “I ask us all to commit, beginning today, to working across the aisle with a view to becoming more consistent, more fair, more respectful, and more principled on this issue. We as a country need to take action to set the right example.”

EXECUTIVE BRANCH ACTION

 

President to Nominate Heather Nauert to Be UN Ambassador

The President announced that he will nominate Heather Nauert, Acting State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and State Department Spokesperson, to be our next UN Ambassador.  The Council has not taken a position on the nomination but notes that, at the Residence of the Chilean Ambassador earlier this year, Nauert spoke forcefully in support of global LGBTI rights in her role as Acting Under Secretary, noting that: “protecting and promoting human rights abroad is a core element of our foreign policy. Societies are more secure when they respect individual human rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law.”

U.S. Joins 16 OSCE Countries to Launch an Investigation into LGBTI Atrocities in Chechnya

The U.S. joined 16 like-minded member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to launch an official investigation into LGBTI atrocities and other human rights abuses in Chechnya.  This OSCE investigative mechanism has rarely been invoked and the action speaks both to the egregious nature of the abuses and the intransigence of Russian officials in responding to the allegations.  The investigator’s report will be presented to the OSCE Permanent Council before the end of year.  In a statement explaining the investigation, the governments noted that “[t]hose concerns centered around allegations of impunity for reported human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya from January 2017 to the present, including, but not limited to, violations and abuses against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, independent media, civil society organizations, and others.”

State Department Supports Equal Rights Coalition at Vancouver Conference

The United States has been a leading proponent of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), a new intergovernmental coalition of 40 governments and leading civil society organizations that work together to protect the human rights of LGBTI people around the world.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan sent video remarks to open a major ERC conference in Vancouver, pledging that “the United States will remain a steadfast partner” of the ERC in “addressing the threats and unique human rights challenges of LGBTI persons.”  The U.S. government was represented in Vancouver by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby and by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Moossy, reflecting the dual internal/external focus of the ERC.  At its best, the ERC is an institution that coordinates external diplomacy while simultaneously promoting internal best practices across member countries.  The Council also welcomes the upcoming rotation of leadership of the ERC from Canada and Chile to Argentina and the United Kingdom in June 2019.  Read more about the ERC on our blog here.

GLOBAL LGBTI DEVELOPMENTS

 

In recent good news…

The Supreme Court of India issued a unanimous decision decriminalizing same-sex relationships across the country. The landmark case will buttress similar legal challenges to colonial-era sodomy laws in other former British colonies, including pending cases in Botswana, Jamaica and Kenya.  Read our blog here, as well as the Equal Rights Coalition of 40 governments’ statement here.

— In the South American country of Guyana, the LGBT community secured a victory in the Caribbean Court of Justice, striking down the country’s anti-cross dressing law, which advocates claim will help decrease violence toward trans and gender non-conforming people in Guyana, and also potentially pave the way for decriminalization.

— The Chilean legislature passed a groundbreaking legal gender recognition law, which allows transgender individuals ages 14 and older to self-determine their legal gender in all official documents without a judicial determination or medical interventions. President Pinera signed the law into effect, despite right-wing opposition and following the remarkable public acknowledgement of trans lives as a result of the activism of the trans actress in the Oscar-winning Chilean film A Fantastic Woman.  Similarly in Uruguay, a broad transgender rights law was passed that provides legal recognition and also requires that the state pay for all gender-confirming surgeries and provide job training programs for the community.

— In Romania, the LGBT community succeeded in defeating a referendum that sought to enshrine heterosexual marriage and heterosexual concepts of family in the constitution. Opponents led a successful boycott campaign that tapped into broader anti-corruption sentiments and negativity toward the leader of the country’s ruling party. Proponents of the referendum failed to muster the necessary participation threshold of 30% of the electorate during the 2-day referendum.  LGBT Advocates are now engaging with the ruling party and other parties to demand that they honor their pledge to pass a civil union law in the coming year.

In bad news…

In Taiwan, U.S.-funded right wing groups put several anti-LGBT referenda on the ballot, in an effort to thwart government efforts to provide equal marriage benefits to LGBT people. Unfortunately, they succeeded in passing a number of ballot measures that would create separate and unequal relationships, and also potentially eliminate comprehensive sexuality education in the schools. It is unclear how the legislature will respond, since Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has mandated equal marriage by May 2019.

— Another crackdown against the LGBT community in Tanzania occurred after a regional commissioner in Dar-es-Salaam announced that he was creating a task force to hunt down LGBT people. In reaction to the witch-hunt, numerous governments, including the United States, and entities such as the World Bank, responded with both public and private diplomacy, which resulted in the country’s president distancing himself from Commissioner Makonda’s comments. This was considered a diplomatic success, although dangers for the LGBT community in Tanzania persist.

Watch this space…

— In February, the Kenyan Constitutional Court will rule on that country’s colonial-era sodomy law.

— In Thailand, the current government has pledged to create a civil marriage mechanism for same-sex couples in the coming months.

 

CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

 

We urge your ongoing support for these bills in the U.S. Congress – and urge their reintroduction in the next Congress – to promote U.S. leadership on human rights:

GLOBE Act (H.R. 7291)

— Global Respect Act (S.1172, HR.2491)

— Dream Act (S.1615, HR. 3440)

— Global HER Act (S.210, HR.671)

— Trans Service Act (S.1820, HR. 4041)

— LOVE Act (S.1420)

 

The Council for Global Equality calls on Congress to support DREAMERS

SUPPORT DREAMERSAn estimated 75,000  DREAMERs are believed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. As important as the DREAM Act is to our country’s humanitarian values and image, it’s also the only fair way of putting the lives and futures of these faultless and hopeful young people on the right track.

The Council for Global Equality urges Congress to do the right thing and make the Dream Act a reality. 

Sen. Markey & Rep. Lowenthal Introduce Legislation Affirming U.S. Commitment to International LGBT Rights

Markey-Lowenthal

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)

Press Statement from the office of Senator Edward J. Markey

Washington (January 29, 2015) – In the wake of President Obama’s commitment in the State of the Union to defend the human rights of the LGBT community, today Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced bicameral legislation to affirm that LGBT human rights are a foreign policy priority for the U.S. government. Originally introduced last year by Senator Markey, the International Human Rights Defense Actwould direct the State Department to make preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community a foreign policy priority and devise a global strategy to achieve those goals. The legislation would establish a Special Envoy position in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to coordinate that effort. 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.

“When President Obama addressed the nation and committed to defending the human rights of the LGBT community, we made that commitment to the world,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “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. It is vital to have a dedicated position at the State Department spearheading that effort.  The International Human Rights Defense Act will promote a coordinated effort across the federal government to support our position as a model for defending LGBT and human rights around the world, and I thank Rep. Lowenthal for his partnership on this important legislation.” Continue Reading

A copy of the International Human Rights Defense Act can be found HERE. A one-page summary can be found HERE.

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).

House Members Urge Secretary Kerry to Protect LGBT People at 2014 Sochi Olympics

Jerrold Nadler, Official Portrait, c112th CongressA bipartisan group of 87 House members have signed on to a letter asking Secretary Kerry, “what diplomatic measures the State Department is planning to take to ensure that American LGBT athletes, staff and spectators, and their supporters, are not arrested, detained or otherwise penalized during the Sochi Games.”

The effort was lead by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who in a press statement said, “The United States must do everything we can to protect those Americans who are traveling to Russia for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this winter. Russia’s anti-LGBT laws defy basic human rights that should be guaranteed to everyone at all times and in all places. These laws are completely contrary to the uniting spirit of the Olympics, which brings diverse nations together in a spirit of peaceful and friendly competition.”

Read the full letter here.

You can find the list of names who signed on here.

Read Rep. Nadler’s press statement here.

The Immigration Bill: What’s There, What’s Missing & What’s Next

The Immigration Bill: What’s There, What’s Missing & What’s NextRepost from Immigration Equality

This afternoon, the long-anticipated comprehensive immigration reform bill from the Senate’s “Gang of 8” will finally be introduced. It is a big, complex piece of legislation that addresses many different immigration issues. Our legal team is hard at work reading the bill and analyzing its many proposals, and what those mean for LGBT immigrants and their families.

We already know, however, some of the high – and low – points of the bill.

The legislation includes a path to citizenship for many undocumented people. It also includes the DREAM Act, which will allow young, undocumented youth (many of whom are LGBT) a path to citizenship as well. Both of these components will help countless immigrants – including LGBT immigrants – finally emerge from the shadows and have an opportunity to fully participate in the life of our country. The bill also includes repeal of the 1-year filing deadline for individuals seeking asylum in the United States, which is a significant obstacle faced by many LGBT asylum seekers. Immigration Equality supports all of these important measures.

As we anticipated, however, the base bill does not include the Uniting American Families Act. (A “base bill” is the first version of the legislation, before any lawmakers have an opportunity to make amendments, or changes, to the language.)

UAFA’s exclusion renders the bill incomplete. It is not comprehensive and is does not reflect the values or diversity of our country. Senators on the Judiciary Committee must allow a full and open amendment process that provides an opportunity to add UAFA as an amendment during that process.  We need a majority of Committee members to support adding UAFA to the bill. This means the time is NOW to contact Judiciary Committee Senators and demand they vote for UAFA during the amendment process. Continue Reading

Calling for Basic Freedoms of Speech and Assembly for LGBT Moldovan Citizens

On July 3, thirty members of the United States House of Representatives—both Republican and Democrat—sent letters to Moldova’s Prime Minister and to the President of the Moldovan Parliament. This bipartisan letter expressed concern about a number of recent events that display a disrespect of basic freedoms of speech and assembly for LGBT Moldovan citizens. In June, the Law on Ensuring Equality, the anti-discrimination bill that has been under preparation since 2008,  was stripped of sexual orientation in its final version and a provision defining marriage as between a man and a woman was inserted. Furthermore, the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament has made a litany of homophobic and derogatory public statements about LGBT people as explanation for the changes in the legislation, and for which Moldovan civil society has demanded an apology .

In the months prior to the legislation, a dozen municipalities and provinces passed identical declarations that call for special zones of support for the Moldovan Orthodox Church and a variety of prohibitions on freedom of assembly and speech by LGBT Moldovan citizens. The Council for Global Equality continues to bring the attention of U.S. policy makers to the disturbing trend in many former Soviet republics towards restricting basic freedoms of assembly and speech, and the rising homophobia in the region.

Related: ILGA-Europe and ICJ’s recent report on “Homosexual Propaganda” Bans


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