An LGBT Response to the State Department’s UPR Report
by Julie Dorf, Senior Advisor
The best part of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s livid reaction to the U.S. report to the United Nations on our country’s human rights record was that it put this relatively obscure international human rights instrument–known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)–into the mainstream news this week. CNN and the New York Times would otherwise never have covered the UPR submission of the United States at the UN’s Human Rights Council without a scandal to report. Brewer was furious at the inclusion of a very brief mention of the pending federal court case reviewing Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law on immigration, through which the federal government argues that they, not the states, are responsible for immigration law.
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The Council for Global Equality Applauds Vote Conferring UN Status on the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
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July 19, 2010 -- In a contentious vote, the UN today granted consultative status to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), despite strong objections from states that stand opposed to the recognition of LGBT rights at the UN. IGLHRC, a founding member of the Council, is the first LGBT group from the United States to secure this special status, and one of only a handful of LGBT groups in the world that has successfully navigated this hostile process. The Council congratulates IGLHRC and recognizes the strong leadership in support of this vote that came from the White House, the State Department, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and from leading members of Congress.
"Thank You for Being Part of History's Great Moments"
June 22, 2010 -- In honor of LGBT Pride month, Secretary of State Clinton delivered a moving speech today to to a packed auditorium in the State Department. She highlighted the State Department's ongoing commitment to LGBT rights and emphatically declared that "human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights - once and for all!" She also made a number of policy announcements, including the addition of gender identity to the State Department's equal opportunity employment statement, and issued directives to all regional bureaus to expand their work on LGBT issues. During the address, she personally welcomed four visiting LGBTI activists from Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa, and Malawi, who attended the speech before settling into a working meeting with the State Department's Africa Bureau. She concluded by making a personal plea to do more for LGBT youth, and she thanked everyone for "being a part of history's great moments."
The event was co-sponsored by GLIFFA, and also included comments by USAID Administer Shaw and Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Eric Schwartz. A brief panel discussion followed the remarks and included Deputy Assistant Secretary Dan Baer, as well as the Council's Chair, Mark Bromley, and IGLHRC's Executive Director, Cary Alan Johnson.
Watch the full U.S. State Department Pride Celebration here
Bishop John Bryson Chane delivers speech on respecting diversity on behalf of the US delegation at the OSCE tolerance meeting in Astana
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United States Mission to the OSCE
Session 5: The role of education to promote mutual understanding
and respect for diversity according to OSCE commitments
As prepared for delivery by Bishop John Bryson Chane
to the OSCE High-Level Conference on
Tolerance and non-Discrimination
June 30, 2010
As a public member of the United States delegation, I am honored to participate in this important session promoting mutual understanding and respect for diversity. The United States places great importance on respect for diversity and combating intolerance and discrimination around the world. It is the policy of the United States to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings, including the rights of the most vulnerable individuals in society.The United States condemns all human rights violations and private acts of violence committed against all individuals, including those committed on account of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.
Malawi Pardons Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza
Reports from Malawi indicate that President Bingu wa Mutharika will pardon Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. The two were arrested after they affirmed their relationship in a traditional engagement ceremony in December. They were convicted in May of committing acts of gross indecency and initially sentenced to 14 years at hard labor. The Council welcomes the statements from the White House and the U.S. Department of State on their release.
The case was also followed closely in the U.S. Congress, where Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced House Resolution 1335
calling on the Government of Malawi to release Tiwonge and Steven.
Both the State Department and the White House condemned the harsh and unjustified sentence, as did House Foreign Affairs Chairman Berman (D-CA) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Those statements can be found here.
U.S. Department of State
White House Statement
Chairman Howard Berman
Senator Russ Feingold
Senator Feingold, Chairman of the U.S. Senate's ForeignRelations Subcommittee on African Affairs, also sent a letter to the President of Malawi expressing concern at the human rights implications raised by the case.
The Council for Global Equality Submits Shadow Report to U.S. Department of State
This week, the Council for Global Equality, together with Global Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Immigration Equality submitted a shadow report to the U.S. Department of State on how the United States could do a better job adhering to its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The report covered a variety of issues that impact the LGBT populations in the United States, and suggests recommendations for how the United States can more fully adhere to its promises under that international treaty. This report complements an earlier submission for the Universal Periodic Review – another mechanism that the United Nations utilizes to regularly monitor the human rights records of all its member nations.
Read full ICCPR report
U.S. Department of State Announces Change Regarding Gender on Passports
U.S. Department of State announced that beginning on June 10 transgender individuals will only need to present certification from an attending physician that the applicant has "undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition” in order to declare a new gender on the passport. Under the previous rules, the individual applying for the passport change was required to have completed sexual reassignment surgeries The new rules also allow for an individual to obtain a limited-validity passport if the physician’s statement shows the applicant is in the process of gender transition.
Read the full State Department Press Release.
The Council for Global Equality Submits Report to the UN's Universal Periodic Review
At the end of April, the Council for Global Equality and its 19 organizational members submitted a report to the United Nations
on the human rights record of the United States, focusing on a variety of LGBT issues here at home. This submission is a rare example of international and domestic advocacy coming together to invigorate one another. The report was submitted for "Universal Periodic Review" (UPR), a relatively new mechanism of the UN's Human Rights Council by which every nation has its own human rights record reviewed by other states in a peer review process. This process is one of the key "naming and shaming" tools that the UN uses to address human rights issues around the world, and it is a mechanism that LGBT groups have increasingly relied on to draw international attention to our struggles for equality.
As a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, the State Department and other federal officials have traveled the country convening "listening sessions" to help shape the U.S. report to the United Nations. In April, they heard from groups in San Francisco, including a panel of individuals convened by the Council for Global Equality who testified to the impact of abuses committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity here in the United States. Those powerful and heartbreaking personal stories can be heard here (UPR LGBT Panel ), and they remind us that these are not esoteric issues of international treaty law - these are real issues that impact real people every day in our country and in so many other countries around the world.
U.S. Senate Passes Resolution Condemning the "Anti-Homosexuality" Bill in Uganda
The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a resolution introduced by U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) condemning the “Anti-Homosexuality” bill in Uganda and calling for all countries to decriminalize consensual homosexual relations. See a copy of the resolution and the press statement from Sen. Feingold.
The bipartisan nature of the resolution, which bridges strong ideological divides in the Senate, reflects the extent to which US officials, from Congressional leaders to the President to the Secretary of State to our Ambassador in Uganda, have spoken with one voice to oppose the bill as a fundamental assault on basic human rights. It is also remarkable in its forward leaning posture, as it looks beyond this one odious bill in Uganda and calls on all countries to decriminalize consensual homosexual conduct and protect the fundamental human rights of LGBT individuals.
U.S. State Department Releases Human Rights Report to Congress
March 11, 2010 – The State Department today released a report to Congress that examines the human rights record of every country around the world. Once again, the report documents a growing crisis in human rights abuse directed against LGBT people worldwide.
For the first time ever, most of the country chapters have a dedicated section examining “societal abuses, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” In its cumulative impact, the report makes clear that LGBT rights are firmly rooted in basic human rights protections and that those protections are under severe attack in the world today.
Responding to the coverage of Uganda in the report, senior adviser and former U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest applauded “President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s principled belief that the human rights of LGBT people cannot be separated from those of all of society.” Emphasizing that “many of the most egregious abuses have been committed in countries considered to be friends and allies of the United States,” he urged that the State Department develop strategies to counter intolerance and homophobia in every region, drawing on all the tools of American diplomacy.
See the Council’s full press release here.
See an edited compendium of all LGBT references in the report here.
Watch a short video of Secretary Clinton delivering remarks to the press about the Release of the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.