November 19, 2020 at 6:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Calls for Biden-Harris administration to champion global LGBTQ rights grow louder
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President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key and Tom Hausman)

Advocacy groups are calling for the incoming Biden-Harris administration to make LGBTQ rights a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The Council for Global Equality in a policy paper it released after the election calls for the new administration to issue an executive order within its first week in the White House that would lay “the institutional groundwork for supporting global LGBTI rights, transgender equality and reproductive rights.”

The advocacy group is also urging the new administration to “direct that gender issues feature prominently in a Biden foreign policy” and to “rethink religious exemptions to policies, with due consideration given to the public funding and purposes employed.” The Council for Global Equality, among other things, recommends the Biden-Harris administration nominate openly lesbian and transgender people for ambassadorships and “reinstate promptly” the State Department’s special envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights at the level of an ambassador.

The Council for Global Equality recommends the U.S. should rejoin both the U.N. Human Rights Council and the World Health Organization. The Council for Global Equality also calls for the Biden-Harris administration to formally renounce the State Department’s controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights that current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created last year.

“We are excited to work with the Biden-Harris administration to center the rights of LGBTI individuals in U.S. foreign policy after four devastating years under the Trump administration,” Center for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley told the Washington Blade on Monday.

The Center for American Progress this week made similar recommendations in its own policy paper that it released. The D.C.-based progressive think tank, like the Council for Global Equality, also calls for Congress to pass the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act, a bill that would require the U.S. to continue to promote LGBTQ rights abroad through its foreign policy.

The Human Rights Campaign and OutRight Action International have also echoed the Center for American Progress and the Council for Global Equality’s recommendations.

Biden: US will again be ‘global leader’ in defending LGBTQ rights

President Obama in 2011 issued a memorandum that made the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.

The Trump administration did not formalize this directive, but U.S. diplomats have continued to support gay rights abroad.

U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Eric Nelson, second from left, who is openly gay, marches in the first-ever Sarajevo Pride parade on Sept. 8, 2019. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy in Bosnia-Herzegovina)

The White House in 2019 tapped then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize homosexuality. Grenell is one of the five openly gay ambassadors who Trump named during his administration.

The Trump administration has nevertheless faced sharp criticism over its domestic LGBTQ rights policy that included the reinstatement of the ban on openly transgender servicemembers. Activists in the U.S. and around the world also condemned the White House over its hardline immigration policy they say has made LGBTQ asylum seekers even more vulnerable.

A portion of the fence that marks the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Feb. 25, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Biden-Harris transition spokesperson on Tuesday directed the Blade to the incoming administration’s LGBTQ rights platform.

The incoming administration has pledged to “significantly bolster the offices” at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that are “dedicated to promoting global LGBTQ+ rights and development.” Biden has also said he will “immediately appoint” a special LGBTQ rights envoy at the State Department and a special coordinator at USAID to handle the aforementioned issues.

The incoming administration, among other things, supports the GLOBE Act and the use of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction those who commit anti-LGBTQ rights abuses. Biden says his administration will also “stand with local civil society” that champions LGBTQ rights.”

“As president, Biden will restore the United States’ standing as a global leader defending LGBTQ+ rights and developments and work closely with our partners and like-minded governments to ensure that violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals do not go unchecked,” reads Biden’s LGBTQ platform.

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

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