December 4, 2020 at 12:42 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Meeks elected House Foreign Affairs Committee chair
Gregory Meeks, United States House of Representatives, Democratic Party, New York, TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership, gay news, Washington Blade
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) (Photo courtesy of Americas Society and Council of the Americas)

Democrats on Thursday selected U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Meeks, who represents New York’s 5th congressional district, will be the first Black man to chair the powerful committee. Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) also sought the chairmanship.

New York Congressman Eliot Engel previously chaired the committee. U.S. Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) earlier this year defeated the 16-term incumbent in the primary.

“I’m extremely honored to be elected chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” tweeted Meeks on Thursday. “The new era of U.S. foreign policy will not be just a return to normal, but an opportunity to broaden the committee focus and forge new coalitions to address global challenges.”

The Council for Global Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Advocates for Youth and the American Jewish World Service in a Nov. 6 letter to members of the House Democratic Caucus requested “discussions for the selection of a new HFAC (House Foreign Affairs Committee) chair include specific attention to the candidates’ support for LGBTIQ+ equality at home and abroad.”

Castro is the only one who responded to the letter, but Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley confirmed to the Washington Blade that all three candidates met with activists virtually.

“Meeks was very strong and passionate in his conversation with us and pledged to use the committee to advance LGBTI concerns globally,” said Bromley.

Castro, along with U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), on Nov. 24 introduced a bill that would require the State Department to review the cases of personnel fired during the so-called “lavender scare” of the 1950s and 1960s.

“We were extremely pleased that all three of the leading chair candidates took time to meet with the Council last month to tell us how they would use the power of the committee to promote human rights and economic development for LGBTI individuals globally,” Bromley told the Blade after Meeks’ election. 

“Representative Meeks spoke passionately about standing up for LGBTI rights as human rights. He pledged support for multilateral institutions, promised to challenge dictators and to focus on our issues in committee hearings. He also spoke of the importance of visiting LGBTI groups when Congressional delegations travel abroad,” noted Bromley. “We are eager to work with Representative Meeks and with all of the members of the foreign affairs committee to advance an LGBTI-inclusive human rights agenda in the next Congress.”

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

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