AJWS and Human Rights Organizations Meet with White House to Make the Case for a Special U.S. Envoy for LGBT Rights

Human Rights Organizations Call for New State Department Position to Address Global Anti-LGBT Discrimination and Violence

Washington D.C. – American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and a coalition of advocacy and human rights organizations met with White House officials today to ask President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) peoples within the U.S. Department of State.

“As the scourge of state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against LGBT people spreads, it is imperative that the United States take a strong diplomatic stand in demanding the equal enforcement of human rights,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS, the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization. “We appreciate the willingness of the White House to meet with us and our allies during what is becoming an increasingly dangerous time for LGBT people across the globe.”

Members of AJWS staff were joined at the White House by representatives from the Council for Global Equality, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

The White House was represented by Matt Nosanchuk, Director of Outreach, National Security Council. The coalition delivered a formal letter signed by the participating organizations as well as National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), The Center for Health and Gender Equity, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Metropolitan Community Churches, Immigration Equality, Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches, Global Rights, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.

The letter requested that President Obama appoint a Special Envoy for LGBT human rights within the Department of State, in line with the position proposed in the International Human Rights Defense Act (IHRDA), introduced by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA).

“Appointing a Special Envoy for LGBT human rights would build on your Administration’s progress for LGBT human rights globally by elevating these critical issues within U.S. policy and fulfilling an essential leadership, coordination, and diplomatic role,” the letter said. “The Special Envoy would represent the United States internationally on LGBT human rights matters, coordinate government efforts regarding the advancement of human rights for LGBT people, and support the integration of human rights for LGBT people throughout U.S. foreign policy. Critically, the Special Envoy would engage with senior officials around the world, conveying U.S. support for LGBT rights and, where appropriate, working with them to improve laws and policies that impact the lives of LGBT people.”

AJWS also shared photos taken by activists from around the country, asking for action on the special envoy.

AJWS is the fourth largest U.S.-based funder of LGBT rights worldwide. Since 2005, AJWS has invested nearly $9.5 million in global LGBT rights. In 2013 alone, AJWS provided $2.97 million to support the critical work of 47 organizations promoting the rights of LGBT people in 14 countries. With this support, AJWS’s grantees are coming out, speaking out, collaborating and pursuing recognition, inclusion, security and equality. AJWS also mobilizes supporters in the U.S. to advocate for laws and policies that advance the rights of LGBT people in the developing world.

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If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.