Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are leading a group of 25 U.S. senators in calling on President Obama to appoint a special envoy responsible for international LGBT rights.
In a letter dated Oct. 15, the senators — all Democrats — seek an special envoy within the State Department to serve as a principal advisor on LGBT issues and co-ordinate government efforts against newly enacted anti-gay laws overseas.
Among these laws are the anti-gay propaganda law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the law in Uganda that in some cases calls for life imprisonment for gay people.
“To adequately address the challenges posed by these new discriminatory laws, there needs to be coordination of action across the federal government,” the senators write in the letter. “That is why we are calling on you to create a Special Envoy within the State Department who would serve as principal advisor to the Secretary of State on LGBT issues and can coordinate our efforts to resist these discriminatory laws.”
As the make up of the State Department currently stands, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is responsible for monitoring LGBT issues overseas.
Markey has already introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate known as the International Human Rights Defense Act. In addition to requiring the appointment of an envoy on international LGBT rights, the bill would direct the State Department to make responding to discrimination and violence against the LGBT community a foreign policy priority. The legislation would also requirement the development of a global strategy to achieve that goal.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said the administration will continue to work with Congress to advance LGBT rights overseas, but he has no announcements on any change in personnel.
“The White House appreciates the letter and the Obama Administration remains committed to protecting the rights of LGBT people both here and abroad,” Inouye said. “We have no specific announcements to make, but look forward to working with Congress as we promote the human rights of all people.”