New Senate Bill Would Create Special Diplomatic LGBT Envoy, Promote Equality Abroad

A bill introduced to the Senate on Thursday by Massachusetts senator Ed Markey (D, right) aims to create an LGBT envoy to promote equal rights abroad. The bill is backed by over twenty other democrats, and although it faces a difficult approval process, it is an exciting step toward LGBT-related diplomacy, particularly given the recent upswing in anti-gay violence in countries ranging from France to Uganda. The official title of the bill is "The International Human Rights Defense Act."

EdMarkeyBuzzfeed reports:

“For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defending the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBT community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere,” Markey said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “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.”

In addition to creating the envoy’s office, the bill would direct the State Department to “devise a global strategy” to prevent discrimination and violence against LGBT people and coordinate with LGBT-rights advocates in other countries and in international organizations.

If the bill were to pass, it would be a firm indication of a shift in American diplomacy, away from the George W. Bush era, when the U.S. blocked prioritization of LGBT rights in the UN. Though President Obama does not have the best track record with the LGBT community, including a continued refusal to sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he could have the chance to create the envoy post without a congressional vote. 

Currently, twelve human rights organizations are endorsing the bill, including the American Jewish World Service and the Council for Global Equality. 

We will keep Towleroad readers posted as the bill is discussed in Senate.


  1. WOLF says

    Obama has never refused to sign ENDA. What he has refused to sign is a stopgap ENDA-like executive order amongst federal contractors, which I’m sorry if this gets me flamed, is a bad idea. It lets the wind out of the sails to getting a broad ENDA passed through Congress which cannot simply be overturned by the next president.

  2. simon says

    Anti-gay violence exists even in the US. France probably doesn’t need such an envoy. They already have nation wide marriage equality and their records in this area seem to be better than us.

  3. Randy says

    Obama never signed ENDA, only because Congress never passed it.

    Obama should sign an executive order.

    ENDA was always the easiest thing to get passed, and it would remain so even with such an order.

    But ENDA is out-of-date and is no longer sufficient, because it’s unnecessarily limited only to employment, and it contains yet another exemption for religion, continuing to normalize the elevation of “sincerely held” bulls–t above all other rights, and establishing an expectation that any law can be got around just by “fervently believing” it’s bad.

    When we need is a simple inclusion of sexual orientation and gender expression all in the regular civil rights laws at once.

    As for the LGBT envoy post, that would be something good to see happen. There’s certainly plenty of work to be done internationally, and there seems to be a lack of leadership among nations, particularly when we see that Ugandan criminals can lead the UN general assembly.

  4. Robert says

    The President doesn’t have the best track record with the LGBT community? What an absurd statement. Please name another president who’s done more for gay rights. Overturning DADT, directing his justice department to refuse to defend DOMA which helped get it overturned at the Supreme Court, having his justice department provide recognition of all same sex marriages even when they’re not recognized in a couple’s home state, and, oh yes, the first sitting president to support marriage equality. I could go on–there’s more. Barack Obama will go down in history as being as important for the shift in gay rights as Lyndon Johnson was for civil rights for people of color.

  5. says

    As others have already pointed out, Joseph, your statement about the President’s track record and ENDA is misinformed. If Congress passed ENDA, the President would gladly sign it. Issuing an executive order and signing ENDA are two different things, and it’s unclear what else you’re referring to as part of the LGBT track record.

  6. Patric says

    “Though President Obama does not have the best track record with the LGBT community, including a continued refusal to sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he could have the chance to create the envoy post without a congressional vote.” This is the single most absurd and poorly informed sentence I have ever read on any Towleroad post. It should be an embarrassment to Andy and the entire site and deserves a separate post retracting this garbage.

    If you want to take shots at the President who has done far, far more to advance the cause of equality than any former President, or Saint Hillary, and who appointed two of the five Justices who gave us last year’s win in Edie Windsor’s case, at least have half a clue about what you’re saying.

  7. simon says

    100% agree. He may not be the best. Is there anyone better is the question. My feeling is that he may be waiting until the end of his term in 2016 when it becomes clear there is no progress in Congress. He may be weighing the possibility of an executive order may further alienate the GOP’s whose cooperation he still needs. Not to aggravate an already sour relationship.

  8. says

    Without taking away from the good Obama has ACTUALLY done vs. his reputation, what a mess of misinformation from top to bottom in response to Joseph’s error about ENDA! Let’s just start with the last drool. Ya wanna talk “poorly informed,” Patric? While there’s some truth in what you wrote, like most you apparently chose not to pay enough attention to what was actually going on behind the smoke and mirrors of Obama’s “evolving” in 2012 to 1. know that, in fact, on its face alone, he was merely RETURNING to his unequivocal support for marriage equality in 1996 that he quickly abandoned when he decided to run for President. Now, I get what he felt was a pragmatic necessity. It’s the hypocrisy over pretending he didn’t do it that’s disgusting.

    2. While FINALLY after more than two years of shamelessly defending DOMA as Constitutional, Obama and his aides reran their numbers and decided it was politically safe to do that, which, in turn, led to their amicus brief supporting the Windsor challenged. BUTTTTTTTTT, in the Prop H8TE case hearing, Obama sent his Solicitor General to explicitly tell the Supremes he did not WANT them to overturn state marriage bans. Don’t believe me? Here are the key excerpts from the transcript:

    JUSTICE GINSBURG TO OBAMA SOLICITOR GENERAL VERRILLI: “So a State that has made considerable progress [such as California] has to go all the way, but at least the Government’s position is, if [a state] has…done absolutely nothing at all, then…IT CAN DO — DO AS IT WILL.”



  9. simon says

    I also know how to cut and paste. Here is what I got.
    CBS news June 5, 2006, 8:27 AM:
    President Bush said Monday that he is “proud to stand with” those who support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, as the Senate opened a volatile, election-year debate on the issue.
    “Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure,” said Mr. Bush, who raised the issue’s profile with an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
    “Like the vast majority of Americans, I’ve opposed same-sex marriage, but I’ve also opposed unjust discrimination against anyone, for racial or religious reasons, or for sexual preference. Americans are a tolerant, generous, and kind people. We all oppose bigotry and disparagement. But the debate over same-sex marriage is not a debate over tolerance. It is a debate about the purpose of the institution of marriage and it is a debate about activist judges who make up the law rather than interpret the law.” – Mitt Romney 12/14/06 National Review Online
    It is getting too long. I can go on and on.

  10. simon says

    Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich may be better on LGBT issues at least according to what they said. To be honest, I may have voted for them if they got to the final. The reality is these people seem to be too far off even in the Democratic party. Despite all his faults, Obama is the best we can get. It is meaningless to go back years about he said or what he didn’t say. The final results are all there which only a fool will dispute.
    I just happen to believe in redemption, of course not in the religious sense.

  11. emjayay says

    I don’t know what she was able to accomplish substantively, but Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was certainly rhetorically out there supporting gay and the not unconnected women’s equality, and in that position she was expressing the policies of the administration.

    I don’t see this proposal going anywhere what with a Congress with a lot of guys who would endorse and some who are closely involved with the Christianists who went over to Uganda etc. about a hundred times to convince them that gays are the spawn of Satan and should be put to death.

  12. alex says

    Given the multitude of issues that Congress and the President must handle, the only way you could vote for someone you completely agree with would be if you were running. (And, that assumes that the people/organizations funding your campaign aren’t forcing you to make compromises.)

    I’m not a fan of President Obama. But, he most certainly has been a huge ally to the LGB community.

  13. Liam says

    IT astounds me that some on this list and other places are not satisfied with the vast list of things that Obama has done for us, more that all the other Presidents combined. No, he has to have the most perfect of motives, he must not have taken political calculus in mind in making his strategic decisions for us, he must be “honest” at all times about the making of the political sausage. Its just maddening that some people can never be satisfied. Be thankful for what he has been able to accomplish. Ignore how it was done. Because in the end all that matters is that DADT is over, marriage equality is overtaking the land, we have more gay ambassadors and diplomats than ever before, Being gay in the government is easier than it has ever been. Be thankful for that and just quit complaining all the time. You make my teeth hurt!

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