This bill would prevent certain anti-LGBT persons from entering the U.S, based on a list the Executive Branch would be required to send to Congress biannually.
A bill recently passed out of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee would allow the federal government to block U.S. visas for foreign individuals who criticize or otherwise work against the LGBT movement.
It is recognized that people’s basic human rights are frequently violated, both by state and non-state entities and that the victims of these incidents include persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), as well as many others. The Global Equality Act could punish those who commit such offenses as killing or assaulting persons based on their perceived sexual orientation.
But the bill goes much farther than that and, according to critics, could be used to curtail human rights, including religious freedom and freedom of expression by foreign citizens.
According to Human Rights Watch, this bill would provide a means to prevent persons who violate the rights of LGBT-identified individuals from entering the U.S, based on a list of such persons the Executive Branch would be required to send to Congress biannually.
There is an existing U.S. law, the Global Magnitsky Act, which already uses such a mechanism to address egregious human rights violators outside the U.S. Inasmuch as the Global Respect Act is modeled after this law it would be duplicative. The Global Magnitsky Act has already been used to sanction violators of the rights of LGBT-identified persons, such as a group in Chechnya earlier this year.
However, the Global Respect Act goes beyond the existing standard by requiring the State Department’s annual country human rights reports to include a section on LGBT issues. Again, violations of the rights of LGBT-identified persons are already included in the annual reports, along with violations of the rights of all persons without distinction as to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Global Respect Act attempts to change the frame of reference. Rather than focusing on human rights violations as a starting point, it shifts the focus to LGBT-identified individuals as a class of potential victims of violations, and calls on the U.S. government to actively seek out such incidents with the help of civil society organizations.
The proposed law is in tension with international human rights standards. While the title of the version proposed in the House of Representatives refers to violations of “internationally recognized” human rights, the proposed Senate version omits that phrase. This is an important distinction because, in fact, international law does not protect sexual autonomy, conduct, and preferences outside of the context of the right to freely marry and found a family.
Proponents of the Global Respect Act are quick to characterize any opposition to it, as support for the killing and persecution of LGBT-identified individuals. However, it remains unclear how the proposed law would improve on existing mechanisms to address human rights violations, or to what extent it could infringe other rights through overreach. The bill refers to individuals “responsible for, or complicit in, inciting a foreign person” to egregious behavior or “other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of the individual.” As pointed out by the Eagle Forum, this broad language would pose “a threat to a person’s religious freedom and freedom of speech.”
The category of LGBT, and similar formulations, do not possess a widely accepted legal or scientific meaning, either in the United States or internationally. It is more accurate to say that international law protects individuals by virtue of their inherent human dignity, and not based on their “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Human rights violations must be addressed, and the United States has a powerful leadership role in promoting international human rights. With regard to the Global Respect Act, it is up to Congress to ensure that the cure is not worse than the disease.