Archive for January, 2010

The Council for Global Equality presents a joint statement emphasizing the ongoing need to protect the basic human rights of LGBT Americans

In December, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law held a groundbreaking hearing on U.S. implementation of human rights treaties.  The Council for Global Equality and the Human Rights Campaign presented a joint statement to emphasize the ongoing need to protect the basic human rights of LGBT Americans.  The statement is now available on the website of Chairman Durbin.  Since the United States must present several international reports in 2010 on our country’s compliance with human rights obligations under UN treaties that the Senate has ratified, the hearing frames an important opportunity that exists this year to entrench human rights discussions and set LGBT-focused human rights priorities for the United States.

As noted in our testimony, under the Constitution of the United States, treaty obligations are the “supreme law of the land,” but they have rarely animated our domestic civil rights struggles.  Legal complexities limit the direct domestic application of international human rights treaties in United States courts.  Unfortunately those complexities have also occasionally isolated the United States from the larger international human rights movement.  In simple terms, the lack of domestic treaty enforcement means that the struggle for full legal equality for LGBT Americans has rarely been understood within the context of a larger global effort to secure fundamental human rights for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location.

Nonetheless, the international movement in support of LGBT rights has been shaped by our own domestic civil rights struggle for LGBT equality here in the United States, just as surely as the international campaign has also shaped our domestic movement.  The two movements are inextricably linked.  That means that as we fight to secure full rights and responsibilities for LGBT Americans, we have an equally important opportunity to contribute to the larger global movement for LGBT equality.  And if we begin to cloak our domestic advances in human rights terms, with reference to our international human rights obligations, we can simultaneously contribute to the international effort to define a fully inclusive understanding of global justice.  We firmly believe that LGBT Americans should pick up the mantle of Eleanor Roosevelt, whose vision gave birth to the modern human rights movement, and proclaim a new era of U.S. leadership to advance human rights for all.

The testimony notes that we look forward to working with this Committee and with the Obama Administration to give full implementation to our human rights obligations, and to ensure that they extend to all LGBT Americans.  Those obligations include swift passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.  As we make progress, we will also continue to speak out on behalf of LGBT individuals in other countries who are simultaneously struggling to defend their lives and their livelihoods and to protect their families from the abuse and violence that have tormented all of us for far too long.

The Council for Global Equality releases a study on the impact of PEPFAR on LGBT communities

CFGE and CAP Pepfar ReportThe President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has saved many lives and profoundly shaped the global response to HIV. But like the proverbial Trojan Horse, it has been let into the gates with a belly full of hidden contradictions—insufficient attention to marginalized communities, earmarks for unscientific programming, and forced “pledges” that both undermine sound reproductive rights programming and challenge basic rights to freedom of expression.

In this report, Washington insider Scott Evertz takes a serious look at the politics of one of our country’s signature foreign assistance programs. Scott is the former director of President George W. Bush’s Office of National AIDS Policy and an openly gay Republican, and his analysis reflects a degree of experience and honesty that is too often obscured by the rigid ideology and partisan policymaking that have—up until now—been the cornerstones of PEPFAR and the Bush administration’s bilateral funding strategy.

Read the complete report here.

How Ideology Trumped Science: Why PEPFAR has Failed to Meet its Potential

Next week, the Center for American Progress will publish a scathing critique of how PEPFAR – the Bush Administration’s signature initiative to combat the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS in Africa – ignored by design the HIV prevention needs of LGBT communities.

“How Ideology Trumped Science: Why PEPFAR has Failed to Meet its Potential” is written by Scott Evertz, a Bush Administration appointee. The Council for Global Equality sponsored Evertz’ refreshingly honest research, the thrust of which is to advocate a more inclusive, science-based program that ultimately will make more effective use of taxpayer dollars.

PEPFAR is rightly praised for having provided anti-retroviral medicines to some 2.1 million people who otherwise may have lacked recourse to them. It has made HIV testing and counseling available to millions more, while providing care to orphans and others with little means to provide for themselves. But PEPFAR’s assistance pipelines largely have bypassed LGBT communities, leaving gaping holes in the logic of efforts to stem the disease.

At a pre-holiday preview of his report, Evertz demurred on whether PEPFAR’s exclusion of LGBT needs was a deliberate reflection of anti-gay bias. But PEPFAR’s emphasis of abstinence until marriage amounts to a built-in exclusion of gays and lesbians, for whom marriage isn’t presently an option. Indeed, only negligible funding has been targeted at prevention outreach to men who have sex with men – a population that remains, at least partly of consequence, highly vulnerable to HIV infection.

Dogma-over-science has undermined PEPFAR’s effectiveness in other ways as well. PEPFAR grantees must explicitly oppose prostitution – thereby undercutting outreach to commercial sex workers, a major avenue of HIV infection. Averting needle exchange programs for injecting drug users has torn another hole in PEPFAR’s impact. And by giving overriding primacy to “abstinence” and “be faithful” messages, with little attention to correct condom usage, PEPFAR programs have reduced sex education to an asterisk.

The most detailed and disturbing portions of Evertz’ report relate to how PEPFAR may have contributed inadvertently to the unraveling of Uganda’s previously successful fight against HIV/AIDS. The Ugandan Government readily adopted PEPFAR’s de-emphasis of condoms and related sex education as effective means of HIV prevention. Evertz also reveals tell-tale signs that some faith-based PEPFAR sub-grantees may have helped nurture the anti-gay climate in Uganda that has spawned a horribly homophobic draft law that may be put to a vote in the coming days. Those of us of the Christian faith should be first to speak out against this subversion of religion to justify state-sponsored homophobic hate, imprisonment, and even death.

Larger questions fleetingly emerge, without answer, from Evertz’ work. For example, how could the UN Security Council not have recognized until the year 2000 – almost 20 years into this health crisis – the global security repercussions of the spread of HIV/AIDS? But the most disturbing question is this: how were those who ran PEPFAR allowed to break the wall of public policy separation our Founding Fathers rightly erected between church and state – thereby infusing a ground-breaking public health program, and indeed America’s national foreign policy interests, with sectarian dogma?

This is less a question for historians to dissect, or even for the previous Administration to defend, than one that public policy experts must ensure can never rightly be asked again.

View the panel discussion about this report held on December 15, 2009 at the Center for American Progress:

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