Posts Tagged 'US Congress'

State Department Briefs Congress on International LGBT Rights

August 3, 2011 – State Department officials today briefed the LGBT Equality Caucus in the U.S. Congress on their foreign policy efforts to promote fundamental human rights for LGBT communities globally.  The briefing was organized in response to a Congressional sign-on letter that was sent to Secretary Clinton in June to welcome her “leadership in responding to human rights abuses targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals around the world.”  The bipartisan letter, signed by 45 members of Congress, called on Secretary Clinton to continue to build on that work, and asked for additional information on steps the State Department has taken to inject LGBT-related human rights concerns into our public and private diplomacy.  The Council for Global Equality moderated the briefing.

The June letter was organized by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who helped launch the LGBT Equality Caucus in the last Congress, and it was endorsed both by the Republican Chariman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and the Ranking Democrat, Howard Berman (D-CA), who have both taken principled positions to promote the fundamental rights of LGBT communities through their foreign affairs leadership.  The letter noted many of the State Department’s actions in support of LGBT rights over the past year, and it called for additional information so that Congress can work with the State Department “to situate this agenda within our country’s broader human rights, public diplomacy and international development priorities.”  See a copy of the Congressional letter here.

In addition to the briefing, the State Department also responded last week with an equally detailed letter to Congress outlining its commitment to LGBT rights and its work in support of fundamental human rights globally.  See the State Department’s response here.

Uganda’s Current Parliamentary Session Closed Without Vote on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Uganda Parliament

photo: Andrew Regan

May 13, 2011 – After two years of dangerous discussion, the current parliamentary session in Uganda closed today without a vote on the “anti-homosexuality” bill.  The coordinator of the civil society coalition opposing the bill, Adrian Jjuuko, put it this way: “The Ugandan parliament has closed today. . . . Thus the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has to be reintroduced in the new parliament and the whole process to begin all over again.  Thank you all for the efforts and solidarity in fighting this ominous bill. The struggle may have to begin all over again, but for now, the process is over.”

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009.  It was an affront to the lives and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans and a threat to democracy and human rights throughout the country.  Indeed, it was the most extreme attempt by any country anywhere to criminalize same-sex relations and relationships, even imposing the death penalty in certain cases.  It also would have criminalized those who provide assistance to LGBT citizens, including medical professionals, family members, pastors or civil society organizations that support the fundamental rights of the country’s LGBT community.

A broad coalition of human rights leaders in Uganda came together to denounce the bill, insisting that it was a backward-looking attempt to divert attention away from growing civil unrest in the country, and from the alarming violence unleashed by the authorities in recent weeks to suppress peaceful protests.  Uganda’s own Human Rights Commission called the bill unconstitutional and inconsistent with the country’s human rights obligations.

The bill could be introduced in the next parliament, which convenes later this month.  And although never adopted, the debate around it has already created an atmosphere of extreme hostility and led to acts of targeted violence against LGBT citizens.  But for now, the brave civil society leaders who stood up to oppose the bill should take pride in their work to protect human rights for all Ugandans.  We are also grateful for the committed response of U.S. foreign policy leaders in the White House, the State Department and Congress who have engaged in a dialogue with Ugandan authorities for nearly two years to highlight the harms caused by this proposal.

Anti-Homosexuality Bill on hold

May 11, 2011 – Parliament in Uganda adjourned today without voting on the “anti-homosexuality” bill.  The Council understands that the current lame duck parliament may convene again on Friday, May 13, and that the bill could still receive a vote in the final hours of this current parliamentary session.

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional law Uganda (CSCHRCL) in Uganda notes that the bill, once believed to have been permanently stalled, “is being used to blind the world to everything else that is going on in Uganda right now.  Alternatively that re-opening the discussion about a backwards looking and harmful proposal is symptomatic of a more general problem of weak governance.”

The Council is grateful for the leadership of the White House, State Department and U.S. Congress in speaking out against this shocking effort, and we trust that the United States will continue to hold President Museveni to his assurance that the bill will not become law.  The State Department outlined recent U.S. government engagement in a statement on Box Turtle Bulletin here.  We appreciate the ongoing commitment of U.S. foreign policy leaders to human rights for all Ugandans, including the country’s LGBT community.

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