House Democrats Want LGBT Protections in TPP Trade Deal

The Obama administration needs to renegotiate the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal because of the lack of protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, according to 27 House Democrats.

In a June 9 letter to President Obama, led by Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, the lawmakers said LGBT people face legal and human rights abuses in two TPP member countries: Brunei and Malaysia.

“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,” the lawmakers wrote. “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.”

The letter points to the persecution of transgender people in Malaysia. According to the lawmakers, Malaysian authorities have sentenced transgender people to prison for their choice of clothing.

A spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

With the exception of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), all of the letter’s signatories voted against last year’s trade promotion authority bill, which would grant fast-track treatment to TPP if it’s sent to Capitol Hill for congressional approval.

Some of the lawmakers have influential positions within the Democratic caucus. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan is the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, while Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Loretta Sanchez is a candidate for California’s open Senate seat.

Correction

This article has been updated to reflect that not all of the letter’s signatories participated in the trade promotion authority vote.

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