Wyden, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Impose Sanctions on Foreign Individuals Responsible for Violence Against the LGBT Community

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), have introduced the Global Respect Act, legislation that would impose sanctions on foreign individuals responsible for human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals abroad.  

“LGBT rights are core human rights,” Senator Wyden said. “This bill sends the message that America will hold individuals responsible if they persecute people on the basis of who they love or how they identify. The United States needs to lead by example and ensure that LGBT rights remain an important part of U.S. policy both at home and abroad.”

“Everyone around the world should be treated with the respect and dignity to which they are entitled, no matter whom they love or where they live,” said Merkley. “LGBT individuals should not live in fear and this legislation will send a message to the global community that we are serious about human rights offenses toward LGBT individuals around the world.”  

Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) in response to a United Nations report that found thousands of incidents of physical violence are committed against LGBT individuals each year.

“While we’ve seen tremendous progress towards equality in the United States, the fact remains that the LGBT community is still under threat both here at home and around the world,” said Shaheen. “No one should live in fear of physical violence or oppression because of their sexual orientation or sexual identity. The Global Respect Act would send a strong message to the international community and a stern warning to those who persecute LGBT individuals that the United States will continue to defend human rights.” 

“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,” said Markey. “With the rights of the LGBT community under attack around the globe, we must stand hand-in-hand with them in the struggle to ensure equality for all people around the globe.”

There are currently 75 countries that criminalize consensual same-sex relations, and in ten countries consensual same-sex relations are even punishable by death. Several countries, including Russia, have newly instituted or proposed laws outlawing “LGBT propaganda,” a vague term that has been interpreted to mean any public statement in support of LGBT rights or LGBT individuals. The Global Respect Act would:

  • Require the Executive Branch to biannually send Congress a list of foreign persons responsible for, complicit in, or who have incited extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violations of human rights based on sexual orientation or gender identity; 
  • Deny or revoke visas to individuals placed on the list;
  • Require the annual State Department Report on Human Rights to include a section on LGBT international human rights, as well as an annual report to Congress on the status of the law’s effectiveness; and
  • Require the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to designate a staff position responsible for tracking violence, criminalization, and restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in foreign countries based on sexual orientation or gender identity.