Mark Pocan
Press Release

Pocan, House Democrats Call on President Obama to Expand LGBT Protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

While negotiators attempted to make progress on various human rights issues through the TPP, the agreement does not include protections for LGBT individuals.

By - Jun 9th, 2016 03:27 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02), along with 26 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama urging him to consider renegotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to include explicit protections for the LGBT community.

While negotiators attempted to make progress on various human rights issues through the TPP, the agreement does not include protections for LGBT individuals. A number of participating countries have detailed histories of oppressing their citizens on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, Malaysia and Brunei have penal codes criminalizing LGBT individuals and authorities continue to persecute members of this community.

The letter was also signed by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), John Conyers (D-MI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mike Honda (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), William Keating (D-MA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Paul Tonko (D-NY).

The text of the letter is below and signed version can be found here:

Dear Mr. President:

We write today to expand on concerns previously expressed by Members of Congress pertaining to the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals living in countries included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Specifically, we are concerned about recent actions taken by the Malaysian government against the transgender community and the missed opportunity presented by the TPP to combat the anti-LGBT actions of multiple countries in the agreement.

As we have expressed in the past, we deeply appreciate that your Administration has been a champion for LGBT individuals in the United States and across the globe. By speaking out in favor of equality for all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, you have made the United States an example for the world. However, we believe more can and must be done to protect LGBT people abroad, and the TPP offers a clear opportunity to leverage changes in countries persecuting these individuals.

We are particularly concerned with the continued persecution of the transgender community in Malaysia. Last year, Malaysian officials entered a private event and arrested the nine attendees under a law that criminalizes transgender individuals wearing clothing matching the gender with which they identify. The court subsequently sentenced the nine women to fines and two of the women to jail.

In April, Malaysian religious authorities raided an event benefitting the transgender community, resulting in the arrest and potential imprisonment of the event organizer and the threat of imprisonment against a lawyer who defended the transgender attendees.  These are just two examples in a long history of abuses by Malaysian authorities, incidents which underscore the concerns previously raised about severe human rights abuses and penal codes permitting violence against LGBT people in Malaysia and Brunei.

For these reasons, we urge you to use the opportunity presented by the United States’ inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to explicitly protect LGBT individuals in the agreement’s participating countries. This agreement encompasses nearly forty percent of the global economy and the United States has the largest economy of the twelve participating countries. The United States should use this position of strength to advocate for the fair treatment of the LGBT community in Malaysia and Brunei. Unfortunately, while the Administration attempted to address other human rights issues in our partner countries, the agreement and side letters as negotiated do not include protections for LGBT individuals.

Given the continued prevalence of attacks on the LGBT community in Malaysia and Brunei, we urge you to consider renegotiating the agreement to include protections for gender and sexual minorities and further demand that these countries treat all of their citizens as equal under the law regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

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