Archive for August, 2010

The United States Government Submits Its Report to the UN for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

August 23, 2010 – Today the United States released its self-evaluating Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council outlining human rights conditions in our country. The Human Rights Council is scheduled to review the report in November 2010. This is the first time that the United States Government has submitted such a report, which some see as a step in rebuilding the U.S. record of commitment to human rights.

As part of the UPR preparation phase, the Council for Global Equality, together with Global Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Immigration Equality, also submitted a shadow report to the U.S. Department of State, with a copy to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, containing suggestions on how the U.S. can improve its adherence to its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The U.S. Government report recognizes that “in each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build a more fair society. In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.”  For the full reference to the human rights of LGBT Americans, see page 9, article 34 of the report. (Click here to read the full report submitted by the U.S. Government.)

When we submitted our shadow report on LGBT rights in the United States, the Council was criticized in The Advocate for airing our country’s dirty laundry at the United Nations.  (See the criticism here, and our rebuttal here.)  The U.S. Government seems to anticipate similar criticism, noting that “[s]ome may say that by participating [in the UPR review] we acknowledge commonality with states that systematically abuse human rights. We do not. There is no comparison between American democracy and repressive regimes. Others will say that our participation, and our assessment of certain areas where we seek continued progress, reflects doubt in the ability of the American political system to deliver progress for its citizens. It does not. . . . Progress is our goal, and our expectation thereof is justified by the proven ability of our system of government to deliver the progress our people demand and deserve.”

Editor’s Letter: Working toward making international human rights a bigger priority.

From The Advocate September 2010

By Jon Barrett


When news of Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill broke last year, there was a sense of—in my head at least—There go those crazy African despots again. I was horrified, of course, but I don’t think I fully grasped the human implications of the hatred brewing in Uganda until I heard about Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in nearby Malawi.

These two were jailed after conducting what officials deemed an illegal same-sex commitment ceremony. Sentenced to 14 years in prison, they were pardoned five months later after international pressure forced President Mutharika’s hand. The whole ordeal, sparked by a desire we all share—to express our love openly—ruined life as they knew it.

Which brings us back to Uganda. Jeff Sharlet, who expertly wrote about America’s ties to homophobia in that country in his 2008 book, The Family, explains in our cover story that the hatred in Uganda is only strengthening—and spreading across the continent.

His piece—and the Malawi story—serve as wake-up calls: I can no longer dismiss this kind of homophobia as the work of isolated despotism, and more important, The Advocate needs to make international human rights—people’s right to live—as big a priority as we do the rights to marry, work free of discrimination, and serve openly in the military. We can’t do it all in one issue, but this is our first step.

Marriage Rights Are Spreading Across the Americas: Will the U.S. Supreme Court Take Notice?

by Mark Bromley, Council for Global Equality

Earlier this month, a federal District Court judge in California, in the now-famous case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, ruled that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.  The judge found that Proposition 8, which was adopted by California voters to overturn a state Supreme Court decision and strip same-sex couples of their right to marry, is unconstitutional on both due process and equal protection grounds.  Most legal observers expect the case to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court in a few years.  If it does, the U.S. Supreme Court might just find itself looking to our neighbors to our north and south, and considering two important marriage-related cases decided this week in Mexico and Costa Rica.

The notion that the U.S. Supreme Court might take stock of this shifting landscape in our hemisphere is not as surprising as it might sound.  In the most important LGBT case ever decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that overturned earlier Supreme Court precedent to strike down a homosexual sodomy law in Texas, Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court majority, looked to the “values we share with a wider civilization” to help decide the case.  He noted that other nations had already strongly affirmed “the protected right of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct.”  He cited a leading human rights case decided more than 20 years earlier in Europe, and a string of subsequent European cases, before concluding that there was no particular reason to believe that in our own country, “the governmental interest in circumscribing personal choice is somehow more legitimate or urgent.”  He concluded, instead, that LGBT Americans are entitled to private lives, and that “the State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”  Perhaps Justice Kennedy, or one of his colleagues, writing the majority opinion when the Perry case finally lands on the Court’s door, will cite this time to a string of cases from our neighbors in North and South America.

Canada, the first country in the hemisphere to recognize same-sex marriage for its citizens—and for non-citizens like me who traveled there to get married—did so based on a 2004 case in the Supreme Court of Canada and a 2005 Civil Marriage Act.  Argentina, the second country in our hemisphere to legalize same-sex marriage, did so this July by an act of congress.  And just this week, two cases were decided, one in Mexico and one in Costa Rica, that lend unique perspective to the Perry decision and its future consideration in the Supreme Court.

In December of last year, Mexico City legalized same-sex marriages for its federal district.  This week, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that all other states in Mexico must recognize the marriages performed in Mexico City.  The 31 states in Mexico need not perform same-sex marriages in their own state, but they must recognize the marriages performed in Mexico City.  The New York Times quotes Justice Arturo Zaldívar as asking what happens to a same-sex couples that goes to another state.  “Does this marriage disappear? They go on vacation and they’re no longer married?”  That’s an equally good question for our Supreme Court to ask in the Perry case, and in a related set of same-sex marriage cases that are also working their way through the federal courts in Massachusetts.

Also this week, the Constitutional Court in Costa Rica blocked a referendum scheduled for December that would have allowed the citizens of Costa Rica to decide whether same-sex civil unions should be allowed in their country.  The Costa Rican Court, in a 5-2 decision, said that the rights of minorities should not be subject to majority vote by referendum, thereby throwing the decision back to the legislature.  While the case was about civil unions and not marriage, that basic logic animates the decision in the Perry case and will surely be an important focus in any Supreme Court inquiry.

The road to our Supreme Court is long and the decision in the Perry case is uncertain, but if Justice Kennedy, who is considered an important swing vote, looks once again to the “values we share with a wider civilization,” he will surely see that the long arc of the moral universe is bending toward marriage equality across our hemisphere and beyond.  One can only hope that this will be as apparent to Justice Kennedy as it is to so many of us in the LGBT community.

Mexican States Ordered to Honor Gay Marriages

repost from the New York Times | By DAVID AGREN | published on August 10, 2010

Revelry in Mexico City last week as the Supreme Court upheld a same-sex marriage law. The court went further on Tuesday. Eduardo Verdugo| Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that each of the country’s 31 states must recognize same-sex marriages registered in Mexico City, potentially giving gay and lesbian couples full matrimonial rights nationwide.

The court had already ruled this month that Mexico City’s same-sex marriage law, which took effect in March and has resulted in hundreds of same-sex marriages, was constitutional.

But on Tuesday, the court went a step further, ruling 9 to 2 against a complaint from the attorney general’s office, which had said that other jurisdictions should not be required to honor marriages that were performed in Mexico City. continue to the full story

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