The US is paving the way to abandon international rights which protect LGBT+ people and women in favor of ‘God-given rights’.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the draft report from his so-called ‘Commission on Unalienable Rights’ yesterday.
Human rights campaign organizations swiftly condemned the US State Department report which sets to put some human rights above others.
One campaigner said it showed a worldview favoring ‘male-domination, subservience of women, racial inequality, and complete erasure of LGBTIQ people’.
Indeed, Pompeo used his speech to say human rights policy should prioritize ‘property rights and religion liberty’.
Moreover, he condemned Black Lives Matter protestors who have pulled down statues of Confederate officers in the Civil War.
‘New rights’ may not be worth defending
The 60 page Draft Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights uses human rights language.
However it repeatedly tries to prioritize some human rights over others. In particular it attacks ‘new’ rights – which would include LGBT+ rights.
For example, it says:
‘There is good reason to worry that the prodigious expansion of human rights has weakened rather than strengthened the claims of human rights and left the most disadvantaged more vulnerable.
‘More rights do not always yield more justice. Transforming every worthy political preference into a claim of human rights inevitably dilutes the authority of human rights.’
In particular, the report proposes that ‘new rights’ should be consistent with ‘constitutional principles and moral, political, and legal traditions’. All these are pseudo-intellectual arguments which homophobes and transphobes often use to deny LGBT+ people of their human rights.
The report claims to accept the ‘universality’ of human rights. However it repeatedly indicates some human rights are not that important. For example, it says:
‘Decisions about the priority of rights are not only inescapable but desirable. In many circumstances certain rights have a necessary logical precedence.’
It specifically mentions same-sex marriage as an example of a social and political controversy. The report says it is not clear if it is a human rights issue.
Moreover, in the conclusions it states:
‘Nation-states have some leeway to base their human rights policy on their own distinctive national traditions.’
Countries could use this argument to keep oppressing women and LGBT+ people, for example, if it’s part of their ‘culture’.
Sparking a ‘race to the bottom’ on rights
Tarah Demant, the director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA said:
“The US State Department’s effort to cherry-pick rights in order to deny some their human rights is a dangerous political stunt.
‘[It] could spark a race to the bottom by human rights-abusing governments around the world.
‘The administration is seeking to create a hierarchy of rights, where it gets to decide which rights are “unalienable” and which rights are what it calls in the report “divisive social and political controversies,” a category which predictably includes sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights.
‘Human rights are not a choose-your-own-adventure in which the US government gets to pick a different ending because it doesn’t like a particular set of rights.’
Meanwhile Maria Sjödin of OutRight Action International said:
‘The fundamental principle of human rights is universality – human rights belong to us all, regardless of religious denomination, gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other number of distinguishing features.
‘By using human rights language the report claims to safeguard human rights, while in fact doing the opposite.
‘It positions international human rights law as secondary to national legislation, elevates one human right over another, and equates “unalienable rights” to “natural law” and “natural rights” – terms used to describe a social order which is often characterized by male-domination, subservience of women, racial inequality, and complete erasure of LGBTIQ people.’
‘Illegitimate’ commission full of anti-LGBT+ religious scholars
Amnesty International declared Pompeo had followed an ‘illegitimate’ process to produce the report.
Indeed LGBT+ campaigners have worried about the Commission on Unalienable Rights since it started.
From the outset it aimed to revisit rights on the basis of ‘natural law’. Conservatives often use this ‘God-given’ basis of rights as a pseudointellectual justification for opposing LGBT+ rights.
Moreover, several of the commission’s panelists are anti-LGBT+ religious scholars.
It is part of a process by which the Trump administration has shown what Amnesty describes as ‘contempt’ for international human rights.
Indeed, this includes the US abandoning its seat on the UN Human Rights Council. It has also refused to respond to letters of concern by UN human rights experts.
Despite this, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed this month that Trump has ‘a great record’ on LGBT+ rights. Unsurprisingly, LGBT+ campaigners immediately lambasted that claim listing 153 times his government has attacked our community.
In fact, research indicates Trump is getting more anti-LGBT+ as he gears up for this November’s elections.