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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 27, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 09
LGBT labor group challenges new U.S. special envoy
No trade treaties with anti-Gay countries, Pride At Work says
Section One
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LGBT labor group challenges new U.S. special envoy
No trade treaties with anti-Gay countries, Pride At Work says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Pride At Work, an LGBT labor organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has issued a challenge for the new U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons: take Malaysia and Brunei out of the trade treaty the U.S. is negotiating with Pacific Rim countries.

Randy Barry was appointed to the Special Envoy position on February 23. He is charged with representing U.S. human rights policy, especially in regards to actions against LGBT people by foreign governments.

Pride At Work Executive Director Jerame Davis said the timing of Barry's appointment opened up possibilities for action on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) now being negotiated.

'The timing of this appointment could not be more critical,' Davis said in a statement. 'The first test of this position's power and reach is happening right now as the President is wrapping up negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Congress is close to introducing Fast Track legislation to push it through to approval.'

TPP includes the United States and several other Pacific Rim countries, including Malaysia and Brunei which apply severe sharia law penalties to their LGBT citizens. The Sultan of Brunei - one of the world's richest men - is the target of an ongoing LGBT boycott of his Beverly Hills Hotel.

'Our nation should not be negotiating, let alone signing, privileged trade deals with countries that jail or stone to death their LGBT citizens,' Davis continued. 'What better way for this new Special Envoy to carry out the mission of his position than by preventing these two countries from being included in the agreement?'

'Fast Track' is a special provision that would allow the administration to negotiate the terms of the treaty and then present it to the U.S. Senate for an up or down vote without an opportunity for amendments.

Besides rewarding anti-Gay governments, the TPP has been criticized by labor organizations because it would weaken workplace health and safety laws and banking and investment regulations in the name of 'free trade.' Many also fear that environmental protections will be overturned. Fast Track would prevent the Senate from addressing these concerns.

So far there has been no response from Barry or the Obama administration.

Other LGBT organizations congratulated Barry without bringing up controversial issues like TPP.

'The appointment of Randy Berry as a special diplomatic envoy brings to a pinnacle the historic trend, first put in motion by the 2011 Presidential Memorandum, of integrating the rights of LGBT people into U.S. foreign policy,' IGLHRC said in a statement.

'Having long advocated for this step forward, we at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission celebrate its arrival and congratulate Mr. Berry on his new role. The U.S. envoy can contribute to a new era in which the conscience of governments everywhere can be focused on the destabilizing impact of prejudice and abuse that inflicts suffering on millions worldwide. Human rights should be a priority for every government in both domestic and foreign policy.'

'At a moment when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,' HRC President Chad Griffin said.

'President Obama and Secretary Kerry have shown tremendous leadership in championing the rights of LGBT people abroad. Now, working closely with this new envoy, we've got to work harder than ever to create new allies, push back on human rights violators, and support the brave leaders and organizations that fight for LGBT rights around the world.'

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