March 15, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
House panel approves measure against LGBT persecution overseas

Rep. Barney Frank (Blade photo by Michael Key).

A U.S. House committee on Tuesday approved an amendment to major Treasury department legislation that would pressure countries overseas that persecute LGBT people or religious minority groups.

The House Financial Services Committee passed the measure, introduced by gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), by voice vote as part of legislation that outlines fiscal year 2012 budget priorities for issues under its jurisdiction, including recommended funds for the Treasury Department and the World Bank. Harry Gural, a Frank spokesperson, said only person on the committee voiced a “no” vote to the amendment, although he didn’t know the identity of this lawmaker.

The text of the amendment follows:

The Committee urges Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights, for example, the denial of freedom of religion, including the right to choose one’s own religion, and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a statement, Frank, ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, praised the passage of the amendment and said it would address persecution faced by LGBT people overseas, including in places like Uganda, where legislation is pending before parliament that would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts.

“What we have seen in recent years is a pattern of gross violation of human rights in some countries — extreme physical persecution and even execution. In Uganda for example, which was the major beneficiary of our Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, there has been physical persecution of people who are sexual minorities.”

“The United States has a fairly influential voice in the development area. And we should not be supportive of providing multilateral bank development funds going to the governments of countries which engage in the physical persecution of people because of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Now that the committee approved the amendment, it will remain a component of the larger legislation as it proceeds to the House floor. The panel approved the larger bill by a vote of 29-24; Frank was among the “no” votes on final passage.

According to Frank’s office, because of the support the measure enjoyed in committee, supporters hope it will garner support to pass as part of the larger bill in the House Budget Committee and full House.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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