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The House wants to crack down on people who commit LGBTQ+ hate crimes abroad. Photo: Mathias Wasik/picture alliance via Getty Images

House passes Global Respect Act, denying visas for people who commit LGBTQ+ hate crimes

In at least 68 countries around the world, same-sex relations are criminalized.

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On Wednesday, Feb. 9, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill cracking down on human rights violations against LGBTQ+ people in other countries, promising to impose sanctions on foreign individuals involved in anti-LGBTQ+ harassment or attacks that have taken place abroad.

The Global Respect Act, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline, who co-chairs the House LGBTQ Equality Caucus, was approved in a 227-206 vote on a bipartisan basis.

The primary sponsors of the bipartisan bill are Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) in the House and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate. The legislation has 74 cosponsors in the House and nine in the Senate.

“And with bipartisan support, the #GlobalRespectAct just passed the House, sending a strong message around the world that every member of the #LGBTQI community deserves to live with dignity and free from violence, unlawful detention, torture, and all forms of brutality,” Cicilline wrote on Twitter shortly after the vote. 

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 68 countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, have laws that criminalize same-sex relations. Many have additional policies that target LGBTQ+ individuals, which can lead to arbitrary arrest, torture and sexual abuse. 

That means that more than one-third of United Nations Member States criminalize consenting, adult, same-sex relations. In up to nine countries, same-sex relations may be punishable by death, and anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda” laws inhibit LGBTQ+ advocacy in at least three countries.

Under the bill, visas would be denied to (or taken away from) people who have committed or have been complicit in human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people abroad. 

The names of those individuals would be added to a list that is “periodically” updated, and sanctions would be applied “accordingly. 

The State Department would also be tasked with assigning at least one senior officer to track violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in foreign countries. 

“Tragically, thousands of LGBTQ individuals are subjected to attack, harassment, arrest and murder every year, suffering under state-sanctioned discrimination and an alarming surge of violence, “ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Yet, those responsible all too often act with impunity, never facing consequences for their crimes,” Pelosi said. 

The Global Respect Act will help to fight that injustice by banning offenders from entering the U.S., gathering new data on anti-LGBTQ violations and holding perpetrators accountable. 

Pelosi called on the Senate to join the House in approving the bill, as well as the House-passed Equality Act, which would expand existing civil rights laws to outlaw discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s LGBTQ+ civil rights organization — applauded the House for voting to pass the Global Respect Act.

“In some countries, LGBTQ+ people face violent persecution and must hide their core identity just to stay alive. By passing this legislation that would restrict people who engage in these terrible abuses from entering the U.S., we can send a message that our country stands with the LGBTQ+ people of every nation and won’t stop fighting for their freedom and equal rights,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that the Global Respect Act passed the House on Tuesday, Feb. 9. That is the wrong day, as it was Wednesday, Feb. 9.
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