Robert Destro Can’t Credibly Lead America’s Human Rights Policy

The Council rarely takes positions on nominations for high-level positions.  However, we urge that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote against Robert Destro’s nomination to serve as Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL).

The job of DRL Assistant Secretary is foundational to our work.  To serve effectively, there can be no doubt that the person in that position fully and credibly embraces the equal respect, dignity, and protection due to all people.  These principles, core to American belief, are embodied not only in U.S. law, but in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights conventions.

To his discredit, Mr. Destro has a long history of inflammatory statements that denigrate the rights of LGBTI people in this country.  To wit:

  • He has suggested that transgender gender identity is a “hotly disputed proposition,” and has asked whether someone who disagrees with transgender gender identity is obliged to treat a person according to his or her identity.  How might this position impact Destro’s stewardship of DRL policies and programs aimed at challenging transgender stereotypes and affirming related sexual orientation and gender identity rights?
  • He has asserted the right of Catholics not only to think like Catholics, but to act like Catholics by discriminating against LGBTI people as a religious precept.  How can this not impact his own embrace and advocacy, as Assistant Secretary, for the fair and equal treatment of LGBTI people?
  • And how can that same view, along with Mr. Destro’s more straightforward defense of the right of Christians to deny services to LGBTI people, be squared with the Department’s embrace of non-discrimination in the delivery of U.S.-funded humanitarian and development services abroad?

Mr. Destro did nothing at the hearing to distance himself from these points – or to explain how, in view of such baggage, he can be credible, as Assistant Secretary, in asking other countries to treat LGBTI people with the fairness, equality and respect that he himself has opposed for LGBTI Americans.  Senator Menendez valiantly asked that question repeatedly; the best he was able to elicit from Destro was a low-bar pledge to seek equal protection for all.  But how can you protect LGBTI individuals, particularly transgender individuals, when you deny the reality of their identity?

We are troubled by the gap between Destro’s record and the requirements of this job – and the gap, indeed, between equal protection and the broader advocacy needs of a DRL Assistant Secretary.  Nor were we encouraged by Destro’s repeated touchstone of religious freedom, given how fervently that freedom has been abused to justify discrimination against LGBTI people.

Destro’s answers to other questions were no more comforting.  He dodged Senator Murphy’s question regarding the damage done to human rights policy by this Administration’s embrace of dictators near and far.  He pointedly sidestepped Senator Shaheen’s questioning of the Administration’s newly announced efforts to restrict funding for organizations that exert their freedom of speech in advocating for abortion among a spectrum of family planning options – even when those organizations themselves do not carry out abortions.  He would not commit to restoring reproductive rights descriptions in the Department’s annual human rights reports.  His anecdotal recounting of having supported a person with AIDS, in the context of claiming that he is not anti-LGBT, was patronizing at best. And his past and current affiliations with extreme anti-LGBT groups make his testimony about “protecting” LGBT rights nearly impossible to believe, including his membership on the Board of Advisors of the anti-LGBT Catholic League, speaking on panels for the notoriously anti-LGBT Family Research Council, serving on the board of the anti-equality Marriage Law Foundation, and signing a public letter to Congress calling for an amendment to ban marriage equality.

Senator Menendez was right to ask whether Mr. Destro’s claim of not being anti-LGBT amounts to a case of “nomination conversion,” in view of Destro’s contrary record.  We ask the same question here.  But even if his conversion is heartfelt, he still can’t credibly lead America’s human rights policy because of the heavy baggage he carries from his expansive public record.  He should not be confirmed.

Read more about his record from GLAAD here.

0 Responses to “Robert Destro Can’t Credibly Lead America’s Human Rights Policy”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Stay Informed

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 231 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Categories


%d bloggers like this: