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Shaheen Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Impose Sanctions on Foreign Individuals Responsible for Violence Against the LGBT Community

**Today, May 17, marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia**

(Washington, DC) – Marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, today U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a 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 and transgender (LGBT) 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. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1). A 2015 United Nations report that found thousands of incidents of physical violence are committed against LGBT individuals each year. Recent reports have documented violent abuse against LBGT individuals in Russia’s Chechnya region and Indonesia.

“While we’ve seen tremendous progress towards equality in the United States, the LGBT community is still threatened by violence and harassment here at home and around the world,” said Senator Shaheen. “Recent reports of LGBT persecution in Russia and Indonesia are horrifying. No one should live in fear of physical violence or oppression because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Global Respect Act would send a strong message to the international community that those who persecute LGBT individuals are in violation of human rights and are not welcome in the United States.”

“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 protect the rights of the LGBT community across the globe and uphold America’s commitment to defending basic human rights in all corners of the world.” 

The U.S. has already begun to effectively employ visa bans against foreign nationals who are complicit in violence against LGBT individuals.  Uganda provides one example where LGBT activists in that country believe that visa bans helped to combat anti-LGBT rhetoric, especially surrounding the highly publicized Anti-Homosexuality Act.  Building on those successful efforts, 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, 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 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 staffer 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 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.

Senator Shaheen and Representative Cicilline first introduced the Global Respect Act in the 114th Congress.