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Shaheen Leads Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers on Legislation to Impose Sanctions on Foreign Individuals Responsible for Violence against the LGBTI Community

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a bipartisan group of Senators in reintroducing the Global Respect Act. This legislation would impose sanctions on foreign individuals responsible for human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals abroad. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) co-sponsored Shaheen’s bill. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative David Cicilline (RI-1).

A 2015 United Nations report found that thousands of incidents of physical violence are committed against LGBTI individuals each year. According to Amnesty International, about a dozen nations enforce homophobic laws with the death penalty. 

“LGBTI rights are human rights, and as we witness governments around the world trample on those rights, it is incumbent on the United States to take action,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan effort is an unmistakable message from Congress that we will not sit idly by while people are persecuted, jailed or murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We are empowering the administration with additional authority to take action against human rights violators. As LGBTI people around the globe endure precarious, or deadly, conditions every day, time is of the essence. I urge Leader McConnell to move swiftly and bring this bill up for a vote.”

“The United States and the international community have a responsibility to condemn horrific acts of discrimination and targeted violence against all individuals, including egregious offenses based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Representative Cicilline. “The Global Respect Act will ensure that abusers of the LGBTI community are held to account and uphold America’s commitment to defending basic human rights in all corners of the world.” 

The United States has already begun to effectively employ visa bans against foreign nationals who are complicit in violence against LGBTI individuals. Specifically, the Global Respect Act would:

  • Require the Executive Branch to biannually send Congress a list of foreign persons responsible for, or complicit in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of an individual; prolonged detention of an individual without charges or trials; causing the disappearance of an individual by abduction and clandestine detention of an individual; other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of an individual;
  • Deny or revoke visas to individuals placed on the list, with waivers for national security or to allow attendance at the United Nations;
  • Require the annual State Department Report on Human Rights to include a section on LGBTI 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 senior officer responsible for tracking violence, criminalization, and restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in foreign countries based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

There are more than 80 countries that criminalize consensual same-sex relations, and about a dozen countries consensual same-sex relations are even punishable by death.

Senator Shaheen and Representative Cicilline first introduced the Global Respect Act in the 114th Congress. The legislation has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom House and Council for Global Equality.

Text of the legislation is available here.