December 11, 2019 at 7:21 am PST | by Michael K. Lavers
GLOBE Act introduced in US Senate
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) speaks at the Senate Visitors Center on Dec. 10, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Three U.S. senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require the U.S. to continue to promote LGBTQ rights abroad through its foreign policy.

The Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Actintroduced by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — would codify into law the position of special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

The GLOBE Act would also require the State Department to document discrimination and other human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity around the world and prevent those who commit human rights abuses against LGBTQ people from entering the U.S. The bill also seeks to improve the way the American immigration system treats LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees.

The GLOBE Act would require the U.S. to work with the Organization of American States and other international institutions to promote LGBTQ rights around the world. The GLOBE Act would also direct the U.S. to protect LGBTQ Foreign Service personnel who are stationed overseas.

Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus has introduced a version of the GLOBE Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defend the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBTQI community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere,” said Markey during an event the Council for Global Equality held at the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill. “We cannot stand idle as LGBTQI persons worldwide continue to endure hatred, violence and discrimination.”

“U.S. values call us to be allies, to stand up and protect them, in spite of the Trump administration’s attempts to narrow the government’s human rights focus and exclude LGBTQI individuals,” added Markey.

The GLOBE Act’s introduction coincides with International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the U.N. General Assembly’s ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.

Tuesday’s event began less than two hours after House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment against President Trump over his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. The White House’s overall foreign policy and anti-LGBTQ policies in the U.S. have also sparked widespread criticism.

Markey on Tuesday said the State Department’s controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights “excludes LGBTQI persons.” Markey also criticized the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to withdraw the U.S. from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“The Trump administration seeks to undermine the very institutions we built and convened over the past seven decades,” said Markey.

“As President Trump cozies up to world dictators, defends human rights abusers, turns a blind eye to war crimes, the world is a far more dangerous place,” he added. “Trump has made life more dangerous for LGBTQI persons by attempting to erase them from reports, from laws and from public life. We will not allow this to happen.”

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras with HIV, died on May 25, 2018, at a New Mexico hospital while in ICE custody. Johana “Joa” Medina León, a trans woman from El Salvador with HIV, died at a Texas hospital on June 1, three days after her release from the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., where she had been in ICE custody.

Yariel Valdés González, a Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who won asylum in the U.S. in Cuba, is among the tens of thousands of people who remain in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

A transgender woman eats inside a unit for transgender detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6, 2019. (Photo public domain)

Immigrant rights activists say the deaths of Hernández and Medina highlight the mistreatment that LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers face while in ICE custody. The GLOBE Act also notes these concerns.

“Asylum and refugee protection are critical last-resort protections for LGBTI individuals, but those who seek such protections face ostracization and abuse in refugee camps and detention facilities,” reads the bill. “They are frequently targeted for violence, including sexual assault, in refugee camps and in immigration detention. LGBTI individuals may be segregated against their will for long periods in solitary confinement, in an effort to protect them from such violence, but prolonged solitary confinement itself represents an additional form of abuse that is profoundly damaging to the social and psychological well-being of any individual.”

Bill reaffirms US ‘promotes equality and justice’

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in March reiterated his opposition to “gender ideology” and his government’s “respect of traditional family values” when he spoke alongside Trump in the White House Rose Garden.

The State Department’s special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad remains unfilled; but Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby’s bio notes LGBTQ rights are among the issues that are part of his portfolio. The Trump administration earlier this year tapped openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to spearhead a campaign that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The State Department has publicly criticized Brunei’s decision to implement a provision of its new penal code that sought to impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of homosexuality. The State Department has also condemned the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya.

The Trump administration in 2017 sanctioned Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets of Russians who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. The White House in September banned Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who publicly spearheads LGBTQ issues in Cuba, from traveling to the U.S.

The State Department’s annual human rights reports also contain information about LGBTQ rights.

“With the introduction of the GLOBE Act today, we make clear and reaffirm today that the United States promotes equality and justice in its foreign policy,” said Markey.

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

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