On Monday, 13 March, the United States Department of State announced that its official delegation to the 61st annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) includes representatives of two organizations known to oppose the UN human rights system, LGBTIQ rights, and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights: the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) and the Heritage Foundation. C-FAM is labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Heritage Foundation called for a cut in funding for programs combatting violence against women and claims that anti-discrimination laws grant LGBT people “special privileges.”
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, a twenty-seven-year-old international LGBTI human rights organization with ECOSOC status, commented on the US Delegation to the UN CSW.
“In their Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Tillerson and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value. The appointment of these organizations to the official US delegation undermines their positions. I urge Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley to ensure that the US delegation maintains non-discrimination at the CSW in the face of obvious pressure from these newly appointed members of the delegation.
Fundamentalist notions about how women and girls should behave should never be the basis of advising or negotiating US foreign policy.
It is also a bad sign that two organizations that have tried to delegitimize the United Nations and human rights internationally now sit on the official US delegation. Maybe the violent mentality that got C-FAM labeled a hate group successfully panders to their base, but the US government must ensure protection for the world’s most vulnerable people.”
C-FAM regularly releases homophobic vitriol on its website, has called for the criminalization of homosexuality and has even espoused violence. Its president, Austin Ruse, has said, “The penalties for homosexual behavior should not be jail time, but having some laws on the books, even if unenforced, would help society to teach what is good, and also would prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” In defiance of evidence, Ruse has asserted that, “the homosexual lifestyle is harmful to public health and morals.” During an interview in 2014, Ruse commented that he hoped his children would attend private colleges, “to keep them so far away from the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities, who should all be taken out and shot.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has considered C-FAM a hate group since 2014.
The Heritage Foundation and its sister organizations has at least 11 past employees now working in the Trump Administration and has provided much of the domestic and foreign policy blueprint the Trump Administration used in its first days in office. In its call to cut funding for programs combatting violence against women, the Heritage Foundation said such programs amount to a, “misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that are truly the province of the federal government.” The organization continually purports that anti-discrimination laws inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity are unjustified. It alleges that such laws, “do not protect equality before the law; instead, they grant special privileges.” The organization steadfastly rallies against the rights of transgender people. It claims that, “[W]e are created male and female and that male and female are created for each other.”
Jessica Stern continued her comments on these events:
“Practically speaking, the US should support CSW conclusions that condemn discrimination on any basis, support family diversity, and support the full range of conditions that enable women’s economic empowerment, including comprehensive family planning. While these ideas might seem like a leap of faith after the appointment of these organizations, these positions are the logical application of the principle of non-discrimination. Human rights are based on indivisibility, which also means that the US cannot credibly support non-discrimination for LGBTI people while opposing family planning. Women’s rights, reproductive choice, LGBTI rights, climate justice, and the strength of the international human rights system all go hand-in-hand.
Many Americans have recently asked themselves, what does foreign policy matter to human rights at home? Now, we have our answer. The same groups advocating against women’s rights, immigrants, Muslims, the Affordable Care Act, and LGBTI rights in the US are taking these views to the international stage. What the US says about women from around the world at the CSW will be a sign of things to come for American women, so it is essential that the US uphold American values and prevent all forms of discrimination at the CSW. Domestic and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin.”
Every day around the world, LGBTIQ people’s human rights and dignity are abused in ways that shock the conscience. The stories of their struggles and their resilience are astounding, yet remain unknown—or willfully ignored—by those with the power to make change. OutRight Action International, founded in 1990 as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, works alongside LGBTIQ people in the Global South, with offices in six countries, to help identify community-focused solutions to promote policy for lasting change. We vigilantly monitor and document human rights abuses to spur action when they occur. We train partners to expose abuses and advocate for themselves. Headquartered in New York City, OutRight is the only global LGBTIQ-specific organization with a permanent presence at the United Nations in New York that advocates for human rights progress for LGBTIQ people.