House of Representatives Must Pass International Human Rights Defense Act to Fight Discrimination of LGBT People Worldwide

WASHINGTON, DC — Efforts to protect and advance the global rights of LGBT people took a significant step forward today when 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. American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, applauds the introduction of this bipartisan piece of legislation and calls on the House of Representatives to act quickly to pass the bill. The other cosponsors of the bill are Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

“Defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide is crucial, as many governments are passing punitive laws and sanctioning acts of hate against LGBT people,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “This new bill would ensure that the U.S. government puts its moral weight and incomparable influence behind global efforts to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, one of the most endangered minorities in the world today.

“As American Jews, we are members of a minority whose rights have been trampled in the past, and we understand fully that neither we nor our government can stand by as the rights of vulnerable minorities are trampled in other parts of the world.”

In 77 countries, people can be arrested for having same-sex relations—and in five of those countries, they can be put to death. The International Human Rights Defense Act would direct the U.S. Department of State to make protecting the rights of LGBT people worldwide a foreign policy priority. If passed, the bill would require that the State Department devise a strategy to promote LGBT rights internationally and appoint a Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBT People. The Special Envoy would be responsible for coordinating the U.S.’s effort to defend international LGBT rights. Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the bill in the Senate on June 3, 2014.

AJWS is the fourth largest 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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