New House Bill Seeks To Make LGBT Rights Abroad A State Department Priority

Rep. John Tierney has sponsored a bill to increase the State Department’s focus on LGBT rights. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

WASHINGTON — A bill introduced in the House of Representatives Wednesday would bolster the State Department’s ability to fight discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals abroad, its bipartisan sponsors say.

The bill would direct the department to make LGBT rights a foreign policy priority, develop a strategy to prevent LGBT discrimination and appoint a special envoy to handle those efforts.

The envoy would help coordinate activities between the State Department and other governments, non-governmental organizations and — if appropriate — the private sector to address LGBT discrimination globally, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), the bill’s primary sponsor, told The Huffington Post.

The legislation would also require the State Department to continue addressing LGBT human rights violations in its annual Report on Human Rights.

The department has increasingly turned its attention to LGBT rights under President Barack Obama. In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech in which she linked the fight for LGBT rights around the world to other historic human rights struggles.

Tierney said that harrowing stories of discrimination in Russia, Uganda and elsewhere helped inspire the bill, as did a conversation with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Markey has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate and was looking for someone to introduce companion legislation in the House.

The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Unlike Markey’s bill, Tierney’s has bipartisan support: Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) have signed on as co-sponsors. Hanna has supported LGBT rights before — he signed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples — while Gibson is a newer arrival to the cause. In the previous Congress, the Human Rights Campaign gave Gibson a zero percent legislative rating. But last year, he announced he was supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would institute federal workplace protections for LGBT Americans.

“On our best day, other countries want to be like us, and for that reason it is crucial that we lead by example with our founding principles of human dignity, freedom, and equal protection,” Gibson said in a statement.

Tierney said he was pleased to be joined by his colleagues from the other side of the aisle. “We’re encouraged by the notion that people think it’s time we had a strategy, we had a plan, and we worked internationally to start it moving in the same direction we’re moving so well in in this country,” he said.

Both Tierney and Gibson are facing openly gay challengers this election cycle.

As public approval in the U.S. has shifted in favor of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, some in the LGBT rights movement have turned their attention abroad, where the situation is often more dire. Russia, for example, drew international condemnation last year over a new law prohibiting pro-LGBT “propaganda,” which advocates said would make it difficult for anyone to live as an openly LGBT person. The Human Rights Campaign, along with several other LGBT and human rights groups, has endorsed the congressional bill.

Last year, the Human Rights Campaign made waves in some circles when it announced that it was launching its own division devoted entirely to issues abroad. The funding of the program was of concern to some commentators: It was backed by foundations linked to hedge fund billionaires Daniel Loeb and Paul Singer. The latter, a prominent GOP donor and supporter of gay rights, made a small part of his fortune through “vulture funds,” which profit by purchasing the debt of financially troubled countries and then going to court to extract repayment.

Some also expressed fears that the Human Rights Campaign’s effort could bring unwanted attention and perceived U.S. ties to local advocates in countries where being gay can put someone in danger — a criticism that Tierney said should not be applied to his bill.

“We’re not getting involved in other countries. We’re getting involved in our State Department — in our diplomatic approach to things. We expect that it’s going to be handled by seasoned and trained diplomats, who are going to make sure that they deal with this the appropriate way,” Tierney said.

“But we want them to be able to have a coordinated effort across our government,” he said, “so that when we set foreign policy goals and we have conversations from our State Department to people in other countries, they know that this is a serious priority with us.”

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Richard Nixon Argues Gays Are ‘Born That Way’ In Newly-Released White House Tapes

377869 37: (UNDATED FILE PHOTO) Portrait of 37th United States President Richard M. Nixon. June 17, 2002 is the 30th anniversary of the arrest of five burglars inside the Watergate complex in Washington, DC that eventually lead to Nixon being forced from office. Nixon died in 1994. (Photo by National Archives/Getty Images)

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Australia: Sydney Opera House hosts festival celebrating queer Indigenous culture

The programme of events will be held at the Sydney Opera House from 4-6 July. (Image: Wikipedia) Get the latest LGBT headlines in your inbox with our free daily newsletter! Join Topics Queerredfern nowSydney Opera HouseNAIDOCaboriginalindigenousnative Share on WhatsApp 2 reader comments

Sydney Opera House is to hold a three day festival this week to celebrate queer identities in Australia’s Aboriginal community.

Events ranging from talks to films and cabaret performances will take place from 4-6 July, as part of the country’s annual NAIDOC Week (an acronym taken from the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee).

The programme aims to explore the queer identities which have always been a part of the native culture, and are not, as some voices have claimed in Australia and elsewhere, a result of western influences.

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US: House bill to include LGBT representatives on Veterans Committee

Bill introduced so LGBT veteran voices will be heard in VA organization 0 reader comments

A House bill has been introduced that would introduce LGBT representatives on the National Veterans Advisory Committee.

The Democratic Representative from Washington, Suzan DelBene, introduced the Voice for Veterans Act to the US House of Representatives on Thursday.

If passed, the Act would reauthorize the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans in the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), ensuring representation from LGBT veterans.

The Advisory Committee advises the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Affairs Committees in Congress on VA programs and advises the VA on how it can better serve minority veterans.

HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: “Since the repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, gay and lesbian service members have been able to serve proudly and openly.

“Yet, we know that there is still work to do to ensure full inclusion of all people who seek to serve their country, particularly transgender people.

“While we continue to work for full equality, this bill would take a critical step in ensuring that their voices are heard. Moreover, LGBT veterans have unique experiences and needs.”

Significantly, although banned from serving openly in the armed services, transgender veterans are included in the Voice for Veterans Act.

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US: Pastor who defied church to support gay son will attend White House pride reception

Danny and Drew Cortez will attend a White House reception 0 reader comments

A Southern Baptist pastor who defied his church to support gay rights will attend an event at the White House today.

Danny Cortez, who leads the New Heart Community Church in southern California, declared his support for same-sex marriage after his 15-year-old son Drew came out as gay, in spite of the teachings of the Southern Baptist Church.

His public support for gay rights and same-sex marriage contravenes the teachings of the SBC – the largest Protestant denomination in the US – which has in the past passed policy opposing homosexuality.

A statement from New Heart said: “As you know, the Cortez family has recently been under fire for reaching out to those in the LGBT community, who have been marginalized far too long.

“If you know Danny like we do, this is not out of character for him. He’s been standing in the gap, and seeking truth, and fighting for justice, and defending the widow, and loving the homeless

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Obama: House Speaker’s lawsuit over executive orders is ‘a stunt’

President Obama dismissed the lawsuit as a ‘stunt’ 2 reader comments

Barack Obama has dismissed the Republican House Speaker’s planned lawsuit over alleged abuse of executive orders as a “stunt”.

Speaker John Boehner announced earlier this week that he plans to file a lawsuit against the President for ‘abusing his authority’ by passing executive orders and circumventing Congress.

Last week, Obama confirmed plans to sign an executive order banning anti-gay workplace discrimination, after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was stalled by Boehner in the House of Representatives.

Boehner said: “President Obama has circumvented the Congress through executive action, creating his own laws and excusing himself from executing statutes he is sworn to enforce

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US: Oklahoma trans policewoman advances in run for state House

Paula Sophia is running for the Oklahoma House of Representatives (Photo: Facebook) 0 reader comments

An Oklahoma transgender policewoman has advanced her run for the state’s House of Representatives, surviving tough a Democratic primary.

Paula Sophia, who previously served in the army, joined the Oklahoma City Police Department in 1992, and was at the centre of a high-profile legal battle with the force in 2001 after transitioning to female.

She retired from the force in April to dedicate herself full-time to campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

Sophia survived the first round of a Democratic primary last night, and will face off against businessman and former pastor Jason Dunnington in the August 26 run-off election.

She managed to win 23.6% of the vote, ahead of Mark Faulk and John Gibbons, on 19.4% and 16.4% respectively, but behind Dunnington, on 40.5%.

There is no Republican running in Oklahoma House District 88, meaning that if Sophia can win in the August run-off, she could be the first openly trans member of state congress.

She said previously: “I was a community oriented police officer, now I’m going to be a community oriented legislature.

“I’ve been passionate throughout my entire career in law enforcement about helping people in their day to day lives.

“I have a deep concern about peace and justice, about respecting the dignity of every human being and I still deeply believe in those issues.

“People will talk, you know… I’m not worried about it.”

In Maryland, trans activist Dana Beyer, who was challenging gay Democratic incumbent Rich Madaleno in a primary, lost out last night.

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