The first Muslim to be elected to the United States Congress has given very public support to gay rights.

In a statement on his website Keith Ellison, who has represented the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the House of Representatives since January 2007, said:

“I am proud to join Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Barney Frank today in launching the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.”

Ms Baldwin and Mr Frank are the only openly gay people in Congress.

“I am honoured to join this caucus because of my lifelong commitment to fighting all discrimination,” said Mr Ellison.

“I believe when my gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender neighbour suffers from discrimination, then I suffer, and so does our whole community.

“Every member of our society contributes to the health, wealth and generosity of our community. Only when we recognise, protect, and, celebrate that will we realise all our citizens’ potential.”

Congressman Ellison’s November 2006 election, with 56% of the vote in a four-way race, made headlines around the world.

His district covers the city of Minneapolis.

He is the first African American elected to the Congress from Minnesota, as well as the first Muslim American to be elected to the US Congress.

The LGBT Equality Caucus was formed last month. It wants the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and improved health and well being for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

It will also tackle US foreign policy with regard to the human rights of LGBT people across the world.