Then-California Congressman Howard Berman in 2009 wrote a draft of the 2010-2011 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which included a section that sought to address discrimination based on sexual orientation in the State Department and abroad.
The proposed bill would have extended same-sex partner benefits to State Department employees and required the agency to report attacks on gay people and to “encourage the governments of other countries to reform or appeal laws of such countries criminalizing homosexuality or consensual homosexual conduct.”
The measure did not pass, but Pence proposed an amendment that would have deleted the gay-specific references.
Pence said during the bill’s markup in the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he opposes “mandating that our secretary of state, diplomatic and consular staff essentially promote a gay rights agenda around the globe over and above other issues.” He also asserted that he does not support the “criminalization of homosexual behavior.”
“Our bill would tie the hands of American diplomats by mandating that they make sexual orientation a foreign policy priority regardless of other national security considerations,” said Pence.
The promotion of LGBT rights abroad has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered her landmark “gay rights are human rights” speech in Geneva in 2011.
Clinton announced in 2009 that same-sex partners of Foreign Service personnel were now eligible to receive benefits that include diplomatic passports, access medical facilities at overseas posts and visit ill or injured relatives. Emails from the former secretary of state that the State Department released in July 2015 indicate she also supported the creation of a position within the agency that would specifically work on LGBT-specific issues.
Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry has been in his position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor since April 2015.
The Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the State Department manages with the U.S. Agency for International Development, has given nearly $20 million to LGBT advocacy efforts since 2011. Openly gay ambassadors represent the Obama administration in the Dominican Republic, Spain and Andorra, Denmark, Vietnam and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
HRC: Pence sought to ‘undermine LGBTQ equality abroad’
Donald Trump announced Pence — who has been the governor of Indiana since 2013 — as his running mate ahead of last month’s Republican National Convention.
Pence signed his state’s controversial religious freedom law in 2015. He also opposed efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Indiana and has criticized the Obama administration’s guidance to public schools that they allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
Trump on Monday said his administration would require potential immigrants to the U.S. to pass an “ideological test” that would include questions on LGBT rights.
The Republican presidential candidate — who was outlining his plan to defeat the so-called Islamic State and fight terrorism — criticized Obama for not condemning the oppression of gays and women in the Muslim world during a 2009 speech in Cairo. Trump also said the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from countries “where being gay is an offense punishable by prison or death.”
Trump did not identify the countries during his speech.
“If Mike Pence and Donald Trump had their way, countries around the world would be allowed to criminalize being LGBTQ and here at home, businesses would be allowed to discriminate and deny service to someone just because of whom they are or who they love,” Brandon Lorenz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Clinton, told the Washington Blade on Thursday.
“While Mike Pence was unconscionably working to undermine LGBTQ equality abroad in Congress, Secretary Clinton went before the international community to declare that ‘gay rights are human rights,’ launched the Global Equality Fund and pioneered the first-ever UN resolution protecting LGBTQ people,” he added.
The Trump campaign did not return the Blade’s request for comment.
A State Department official declined to comment on Pence’s proposed amendment to the 2010-2011 Foreign Relations Authorization Act.
“Broadly speaking, the United States places great importance on the protection and promotion of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons around the world,” said the official.