US congressional bill to fund support for LGBT rights abroad
LGBT rights got a boost this month from the US after Congress passed a government-wide spending bill for the fiscal year of 2016 that would support LGBT equality abroad.
The US Congress allotted $2.48 billion– about $78 milion more as compared to last year– for “Democracy, Rights, and Governance” programs that support a variety of human rights activities.
Likewise, the National Endowment for Democracy, which funds international human rights activities, received additional budget of $35 million more than last year’s funding of $135 million.
This extra $100 million means that the US government’s protection of LGBT activities abroad could get a share of the funding, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.
US Congress’ support of LGBT rights
In an accompanying report to the bill, lawmakers in Congress included ‘directives’ that require the administration to submit reports on a number of topics.
For example, the State Department needs to report to Congress on steps “to prevent discrimination and abuse against LGBT persons abroad.” In particular, the directives cite discriminatory laws in countries abroad like The Gambia and Nigeria.
Furthermore, the bill recommends funding for the State Department’s Special Envoy for LGBTI Human Rights and for USAID’s Senior LGBT Coordinator.
US gov’t officials for LGBT rights
The mention of the Special Envoy in the bill is important as this is the first time that lawmakers referenced the official in a spending bill, given that the position was only created this year.
Though it does not get direct funding for the position or the office, the hope here is that the office will be continued after the elections next year.
Likewise, the USAID’s Senior LGBT Coordinator–which was created in 2014– shares the same situation as the Special Envoy.
Violation of LGBT rights abroad
The HRC notes that though the Obama Administration has taken steps to promote LGBT rights around the world, the focus on Nigeria and The Gambia in the bill indicates that more action is needed.
Both countries had recently passed anti-LGBT laws, with The Gambia instituting crackdowns and arrests against LGBT people.
As such, the HRC cited the bill’s authors– Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Nita Lowey (D-NY)– for their support of LGBT rights abroad.