Activists from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Latvia, Macedonia, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Peru, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Tunisia are attending the second annual HRC Global Innovative Advocacy Summit that is taking place through April 7. Caleb Orozco, an LGBT advocate from Belize who successfully challenged his country’s sodomy law, is also taking part in the gathering that began on Monday.
The activists on Monday took part in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and met with Clifton Cortez, who is the World Bank’s first LGBT and intersex adviser. They also attended a reception at the Norwegian Embassy with Kare R. Aas, who is the country’s ambassador to the U.S.
“Far too many LGBTQ people live in places around the world where there are few to no legal protections, draconian civil or criminal penalties for being LGBTQ and sometimes even threats of violence or death,” HRC Global Director Ty Cobb told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in a statement. “Now more than ever before, it’s crucially important we come together to fight for the equal rights of LGBTQ people everywhere.”
“HRC is proud to bring together 30 LGBTQ leaders from around the world for a unique opportunity to share their approaches to advocacy, learn from each other, and return home with renewed energy to continue their important work,” he added.
Concern grows over U.S. support of LGBT rights abroad
The summit is taking place less than three months after President Trump took office.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Randy Berry, who spoke at last year’s summit, remains in his position as the special U.S. envoy to promote LGBT and intersex rights. Advocates around the world with whom the Blade has spoken in recent months have nevertheless expressed concern the Trump administration will roll back support of LGBT and intersex rights abroad that was one of the cornerstones of former President Obama’s foreign policy.
President Trump on Jan. 27 signed an executive order that, among other things, banned citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Iraq — from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
Ayaz Shalal, a human rights activist from Kurdistan, told the Blade last month he was hopeful that he would be able to attend the HRC summit after Trump signed a revised executive order that removed Iraq from the list of countries that fall under the travel ban.
Federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii issued injunctions against the revised travel ban just before it was to have taken effect on March 16. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle is scheduled to consider the Trump administration’s appeal of the two rulings on May 15.
Shalal told the Blade the U.S. Consulate in the Iraqi city of Erbil denied his visa request. He said officials did not tell him why they rejected his application.