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Saturday, 23 July 2011

US Congress inserts pro-gay provision in foreign relations bill

Mayor David Cicilline (D-Providence)David Cicilline image by Jef Nickerson via Flickr
Source: The Council for Global Equality

The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. Congress adopted an amendment late on Thursday 21 July calling on “the Secretary of State to discourage foreign governments from condoning murder and other forms of physical violence that is directed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”  The amendment was offered to the Foreign Relations Authorization bill by David Cicilline (D-RI), the openly gay former Mayor of Providence, who introduced it after two other more detailed LGBT amendments were rejected by the Committee along largely party line votes.

The two defeated amendments were offered by Cicilline and the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Howard Berman (D-CA).  Those provisions were rejected by Republicans, with the exception of the Chairman of the Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who broke with her party to support the LGBT language.  The debate was contentious, but after several procedural battles, a watered-down Cicilline amendment was adopted by voice vote.

The larger bill has some highly partisan provisions, including one that would reinstate the so-called “global gag rule” to prohibit funding for international reproductive health groups that provide abortion-related information, referrals or services overseas.  As such, it is not expected to pass both houses of Congress in its current form.

The newly adopted LGBT provision in the House bill sets a very low bar for international engagement, but the Council is pleased that it was supported by Republicans, including vocal support from the Republican Chairman, and that the Secretary of State has already committed to engage on these issues as important human rights priorities internationally.
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