Coalition Asks Capitol To Create LGBT Position

By BTL Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. - American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a coalition of advocacy and human rights organizations, met with White House officials on Sept. 16 to ask President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy for the human rights of the LGBT peoples within the U.S. Department of State.

"As the scourge of state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against LGBT people spreads, it is imperative that the United States take a strong diplomatic stand in demanding the equal enforcement of human rights," said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS, the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization. "We appreciate the willingness of the White House to meet with us and our allies during what is becoming an increasingly dangerous time for LGBT people across the globe."

Members of AJWS staff were jointed with representatives from the Council for Global Equality, National Center for Transgender Equality, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Human Rights Campaign.

Representing the National Security Council, Matt Nosanchuk, director of outreach, met with the human rights organizations.

The coalition delivered a formal letter signed by the participating organizations as well as National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), The Center for Health and Gender Equity, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Metropolitan Community Churches, Immigration Equality, Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches, Global Rights and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.

The letter requested that President Obama appoint a Special Envoy for LGBT human rights within the Department of State, in line with the position proposed in the International Human Rights Defense Act introduced by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) earlier this year.

"Appointing a Special Envoy for LGBT human rights would build on your Administration's progress for LGBT human rights globally by elevating these critical issues within U.S. policy and fulfilling an essential leadership, coordination, and diplomatic role," the letter said. "The Special Envoy would represent the United States internationally on LGBT human rights matters, coordinate government efforts regarding the advancement of human rights for LGBT people, and support the integration of human rights for LGBT people throughout U.S. foreign policy. Critically, the Special Envoy would engage with senior officials around the world, conveying U.S. support for LGBT rights and, where appropriate, working with them to improve laws and policies that impact the lives of LGBT people."

The bill, proposed in June, aims to coordinate LGBT policies for all bureaus and offices of the U.S. Senate Department. It would also do the same for the international programs of other federal agencies, representing the U.S. in diplomatic matters relevant to the human rights of LGBT people while working to ensure that the needs of LGBT people seeking resettlement and protections are incorporated into federal government policy.

"By fostering a coordinated effort across the federal government and relevant agencies, we can meet the enormous challenge before us and work to ensure equality for all people around the globe," Markey said at the Senate bill's introduction.

The bill had 26 cosponsors and since has been assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts' 6th Congressional district introduced an identical bill into the United States House of Representatives on the same day with 13 cosponsors (11 Democrats and two Republicans). The House bill has been assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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