Discussion to Combat Hate Crimes and Promote Tolerance and Non-discrimination

 

Michael Gues | photo: OSCE/Curtis Budden

 

Warsaw, Poland, October 6, 2010 – During a discussion of efforts to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance and non-discrimination at an international human rights conference of the OSCE (which includes all of Europe and North America), the head of the U.S. delegation, former U.S. Ambassador and Council adviser Michael Guest, put aside his official statement to speak directly to delegates “from the heart.”  He offered a very personal and very forceful appeal to collected governments to implement effective hate crimes protections for all minority communities, including LGBT individuals.  He noted his personal experience as the victim of a gay hate crime, and he reminded diplomats in the room that the commitments they make have profound, daily consequences in the lives of ordinary people.  At the end of the meeting, in response to a hostile NGO that equated homosexuality with pedophilia and necrophilia, Guest noted how offensive such a connection was, and that such inflammatory allegations are in fact the sorts of statements that can lead to hate crimes.

While much of the meeting focused on hate crimes directed at religious and ethnic minorities, several other governments joined Guest in condemning LGBT violence, as did several NGOs.  As a civil society representative, Mark Bromley, speaking for the Council for Global Equality and joined by two Europe-based LGBT organizations, called on all governments that have not already done so to adopt hate crimes laws that recognize LGBT bias as an aggravating circumstance with enhanced and effective penalties.  Invoking the year-old Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the United States, and honoring the memory of Matthew Shepard, who was brutally assaulted twelve years ago this week, Bromley noted that “today, Matthew’s murder is recognized as a national tragedy; the fact that similar tragedies have been repeated so often across the entire OSCE region is a shameful reality.”  A representative of Amulet, an LGBT organization from Kazakhstan, also called on the OSCE to address targeted violence against LGBT communities in Central Asia.

Redeemed Lives, a U.S. organization, took the floor to speak against this “over-broad” human rights agenda.  Their representative spoke earlier in the two-week meeting to declare that “for some, freedom to safely self-identify as gay or lesbian is emancipation. For others, like myself, freedom from unwanted same‐sex attraction is emancipation.” Redeemed Lives suggested that “over-broad” definitions of hate speech and “fixed” definitions of gender identity have impeded the ability of individuals “to find therapists equipped to help them” overcome homosexuality, noting that “unwanted sexual attractions can . . . be effectively resisted and changed.” While others also spoke against the broad recognition of LGBT rights, including the NGO delegate who suggested the connection to pedophilia and necrophilia, these were tragically fringe statements, raised in the face of the OSCE’s effort to address LGBT violence as part of its broad tolerance and non-discrimination work.

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