Senate Must Stand Up Against LGBT Discrimination Worldwide and Pass International Human Rights Defense Act

International Human Rights Defense Act would make the rights of LGBT people worldwide a U.S. priority

WASHINGTON, DC – New legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate today would make it a priority of the U.S. government to stand up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide.  American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, applauds the introduction of the International Human Rights Defense Act by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and calls on the Senate to act quickly to pass the bill. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Corey Booker (D-NJ).

In 77 countries, people can be arrested for having sex with someone of the same gender. In five of those countries, you can be put to death for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 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 prevent and respond to violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally 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.

“Around the world, LGBT people are ostracized, threatened and assaulted just because of who they are and whom they love,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “As Jews, we understand all too well the reality of living in countries in which states sanction hate against minorities and trample their rights. We cannot stand idly by as this continues to happen, and we urge our government to do all it can to protect the human rights of LGBT people worldwide. We applaud Senator Markey for introducing this bill and call on Congress to act quickly and pass it.”

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.

For More Information

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