March 9, 2016 at 11:22 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Global Respect Act introduced in U.S. Senate

Jeanne Shaheen, United States Senate, gay news, Washington Blade, New Hampshire, Democratic Party

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on March 7, 2016, introduced the Global Respect Act in the U.S. Senate. (Pubic domain photo).

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Monday introduced a bill that would prevent those who commit anti-LGBT human rights abuses overseas from entering the country.

U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) have co-sponsored the Global Respect Act in the U.S. Senate. Gay Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline first introduced the measure in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014.

“While we’ve seen tremendous progress towards equality in the United States, the fact remains that the LGBT community is still under threat both here at home and around the world,” said Shaheen in a press release the Human Rights Campaign released on Tuesday. “No one should live in fear of physical violence or opposition because of their sexual orientation or sexual identity.”

“The Global Respect Act would send a strong message to the international community and a stern warning to those who persecute LGBT individuals that the United States will continue to defend human rights,” added the New Hampshire Democrat.

The Global Respect Act would require the State Department to submit an annual report to Congress that details “the number of foreign persons added to or removed from the list” of those who are banned from entering the U.S. The measure would also mandate that officials within the State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor track “violence, criminalization, and restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, consistent with United States law, in foreign countries based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“We welcome the introduction of the Global Respect Act in the Senate,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First. “This legislation represents a strong U.S. commitment to protecting the human rights of LGBT people globally.”

State Department spokesperson John Kirby declined to specifically comment on the Global Respect Act during his daily press briefing on Wednesday. He said in response to the Washington Blade’s question that the U.S. “remains committed to protecting and promoting the universal human rights of all persons; including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons around the world.”

“That is a significant principle that we’re going to continue to promote, because we believe that this is about human rights, universal human rights,” said Kirby.

White House urged to ban Gambian, Russian officials

Activists continue to press U.S. officials to issue travel bans against those who commit human rights abuses in their respective countries.

The Council for Global Equality, OutRight Action International, HRC and several other LGBT advocacy groups in January 2015 urged the Obama administration to deny visas to Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and other officials from the West African country who “have promoted discriminatory laws” and “are responsible for grave human rights abuses.” Critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have also called upon the White House to use the Magnitsky Act — a 2012 law that freezes the assets of Russian officials and citizens who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. — to punish those behind the Kremlin’s ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown.

The Obama administration in June 2014 banned Ugandan officials who are responsible for “serious human rights abuses” from entering the U.S.

The announcement came nearly four months after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a law that sought to impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The Constitutional Court of Uganda in August 2014 struck down the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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