September 14, 2020

Cortez Masto Cosponsors International Human Rights Defense Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined the International Human Rights Defense Act, led by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), to reaffirm the United States' role as a world leader in the promotion of LGBTQ equality. The legislation is a bicameral effort to direct the Department of State to continue its efforts in defending the human rights of LGBTQ people around the world.

“LGBTQ individuals still lack basic human rights in many countries around the world. The persecution, discrimination, violence, and humiliation many face requires that Americans speak out and lead by example both at home, and abroad. I’m proud to cosponsor this bill that permanently establishes the country’s commitment to promoting and protecting the dignity of all people, no matter who they love or who they are.”


Nearly 70 nations around the world have enacted laws that criminalize homosexuality. Abuses in Chechnya, Tanzania, and elsewhere demonstrate a continued threat posed to the fundamental rights of LGBTQ communities in every region of the world. In 2015 then-Secretary of State John Kerry first appointed a Special Envoy for LGBTQ rights. This position is currently vacant under the Trump administration. The International Human Rights Defense Act would make this special envoy position permanent.

The International Human Rights Defense Act would direct the Department of State to continue its efforts in defending the human rights of LGBTQ people around the world. Specifically, the act would direct the Department of State to:

  • Prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community;
  • Devise a global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBTQ community;
  • Coordinate with local advocacy groups, governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector, to promote international LGBTI human rights;
  • Create the permanent position of "Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBTI People" in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in the Department of State, which will be responsible for coordinating the efforts of all federal programs to defend the human rights of the LGBTQ community internationally; and
  • Continue to include a section on LGBTQ international human rights in the annual State Department Report on Human Rights.