Posts Tagged 'UPR'

News from the Council for Global Equality

Read the November 2010 newsletter from the Council for Global Equality.

We’ve been busy this fall promoting a U.S. foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. I hope you’ll read more about our work and join us in promoting global equality today.

  • Council Celebrates Two Years of Advocacy
  • Council Meets with Under Secretary of State Maria Otero
  • US Record on LGBT Rights Reviewed at UN Human Rights Council
  • Council Facilitates Amsterdam Summit of National LGBT Groups
  • Council Raises LGBT Hate Crimes and Discrimination at Human Rights Conference in Warsaw
  • Are Multinational Corporations Caring More About Their LGBT Employees Around the World?

U.S. Falls Behind Other Nations on LGBT Issues

Geneva, November 5 – A high-level US government delegation today defended the country’s human rights record before the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva. In preparation for the review, the Council for Global Equality submitted a report to the US government and to the UN to emphasize the lack of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. The Council is pleased that during the meeting today, known as the “Universal Periodic Review,” the US government freely admitted that the US civil rights record is incomplete and that LGBT Americans are among those who are still fighting to achieve full equality.

More than 30 US officials, including senior officials from eleven US departments and agencies, traveled to the UN’s European headquarters to give the world “a partial snapshot” of the human rights situation in the United States. The official report that was submitted in advance of the review offers a candid discussion of LGBT rights, grounding the struggle to promote LGBT equality firmly within our country’s civil rights movement. The US report explains to the world 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 fair societies. In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.” read the full press release here

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.

Both the left and the right had predictable reactions to the 25-page U.S. report released last week. The left made long lists of issues not covered adequately in the report, which is limited in length by the UN process itself. The US Human Rights Network, Human Rights Watch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and many other important groups raised important issues that got short shrift in the official U.S. government report. The right predictably questioned the U.S. engaging in the UN process at all. The Heritage Foundation uses the report to criticize the Obama administration for joining the newly formed Human Rights Council in the first place, calling it “a mutual praise society for repressive regimes.” And the gay community’s The Advocate published a piece criticizing the Council for Global Equality for our participation in the UN process when weeks prior we submitted our own report of the U.S. record on the human rights of LGBT people. The Advocate’s James Kirchick claimed that when the American LGBT community uses this global human rights mechanism for advocacy, it “effectively minimizes the appalling way in which the world’s genuine human rights abusers treat their gay citizens.” (See the criticism here, and our rebuttal here.)

In fact, the U.S. report is more honest and self-reflective than anything we would have gotten from prior administrations, even if it does attempt to position the Obama administration as doing everything it possibly can on the many unresolved human rights problems in this country. We know that further leadership is required of our government, and it is our role as advocates to keep the pressure on.

For the LGBT community, the report includes a relatively extensive paragraph (page 9, paragraph 34) outlying the administration’s support for most of the legislation still pending in Congress that would move us toward the goal of equality for LGBT Americans. It contextualizes the LGBT community’s struggle by writing, “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.”

The State Department report says: “Debate continues over equal rights to marriage for LGBT Americans at the federal and state levels, and several states have reformed their laws to provide for same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. At the federal level, the President supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.” It is here that we must register our disappointment. Although we understand the real political constraints facing the administration, we want our President to support full marriage equality for all LGBT Americans, as well as the Respect for Marriage Act. Unfortunately, Obama has felt compelled to articulate and re-articulate his opposition to marriage equality and his support for civil unions. LGBT Americans deserve a government that stands up on “controversial issues” not only to the Governor Brewers of the United States, but to state laws and ballot measures that restrict the human rights of LGBT Americans—including our right to form family.

Our nation has a long history of intense power struggles between the states and the federal government. On immigration, the federal government has voiced its opposition to the Arizona law. The Council would have liked to see a similar call-out about California or Arkansas–states that also overstepped their authority by taking away rights from same-sex couples of existing relationship and family protections through their ballot measure process. The Arkansas adoption ban was overturned in the courts, and a case is currently pending challenging California’s Proposition 8 in federal courts, which was not mentioned in the report.

Thank you Governor Brewer for helping to bring the public’s attention to the UPR report this week, and to the continued need for us to stay vigilant about the proper role of the state and the federal government in the implementation of our human rights values and obligations, as we continue to perfect our nation’s union.

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.”

Council for Global Equality Criticized in The Advocate for Airing Domestic Inequities at UN

image from

The August edition of The Advocate, which hit newsstands yesterday, has an article by James Kirchick that criticizes the Council for submitting information to the United Nations for an upcoming human rights review.  The Council’s submission to the UN (and also to the State Department) suggests that the United States is failing its own LGBT citizens under a variety of human rights standards.

Read James Kirchick’s advocate article here.

American Duty

by Julie Dorf and Mark Bromley on behalf of the Council for Global Equality |

“While we take issue with many of the points leveled against us in James Kirchick’s Advocate commentary “Diplomatic Disconnect,”we agree with his larger perspective. We share his belief that LGBT Americans can and should be engaged in making the world a better place for LGBT citizens in countries less democratic than our own, even while we simultaneously struggle to extend equality for all LGBT citizens at home.

But to have impact on the world stage, we firmly believe that the domestic and the international are interconnected and that we cannot advance one struggle without advancing both. In that sense, we believe that human rights begin “in small places close to home,” as Eleanor Roosevelt, credited with founding the modern human rights movement, so famously observed.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kirchick’s argument comes dangerously close to embracing the ugly specter of U.S. exceptionalism — the idea, in this case, that because things are relatively better in this country, the United States need not participate on an equal footing or with equal candor in reviewing its own human rights record. At heart, this argument stands in contrast to Eleanor Roosevelt’s equally famous human rights exhortation that “without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” continue reading The Council for Global Equality’s rebuttal here

Read the submission to the UN here

The Council for Global Equality submits shadow report to the 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 the full report here.

The International and the Domestic – Where the Worlds Come Together

UPR-Panel (l-r Cecilia Chung, Shirley Tan, Sylvia Guererro, Shannon Minter)

Cecilia Chung, Shirley Tan, Sylvia Guererro, and Shannon Minter

So much of social justice work occurs in single-issue silos. Even within our own LGBT “single issue,” domestic issues in the United States and the LGBT struggles in the rest of the world rarely intersect.

Last week, 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 on a variety of LGBT issues. This submission is a rare example of international and domestic advocacy coming together to reinvigorate each other. The report was submitted for “Universal Periodic Review,” a relatively new mechanism of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, whereby every nation has its own human rights record reviewed by other states in a peer review process. The United States has signed a number of different international human rights treaties, and the UN will now assess how the United States is complying with its international human rights obligations at home based on those agreed standards. As part of the information gathering process, the Human Rights Council reviews submissions from the nonprofit field before issuing its recommendations. This process is one of the key “naming and shaming” tools that the UN has to address human rights issues around the world, and it is a mechanism that LGBT groups from around the world increasingly use to draw international attention to and seek government accountability in their struggles for equality.

As we like to say in social justice work, it’s just another “tool in the toolbox” for addressing injustice. It works better in some countries than in others. It works better for some issues than for others. But as world opinion gradually comes to accept human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as actual wrongs, and as international law is increasingly interpreted as being inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, this tool is ever more useful for LGBT movements around the world – including for the United States.

The Council for Global Equality primarily focuses on U.S. foreign policy matters as they relate to sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Yet we strongly believe that attention to these fundamental issues at home can only strengthen the Obama administration’s voice in standing against homophobia and transphobia abroad. In fact our very legitimacy as a human rights leader in the world is dependent upon our cleaning up our own messes at home. That is why our submission to the UN, which focuses on hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and lack of partner and family recognition in the United States, suggests a very clear remedy for each of these three main problem areas – with most of those remedies tied to specific legislation currently pending in the U.S. Congress.

As a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, the U.S. Department of State also welcomes the perspectives of various communities and nonprofit organizations before it reports on itself to the UN. Together with other federal agencies, State Department officials have traveled the country convening “listening sessions” as part of this self-reporting process. Last month, they listened to groups in San Francisco, including a panel of amazing individuals who personally testified to the impacts of these human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States. Those powerful and heartbreaking personal stories can be heard here (UPR LGBT Panel), and 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.

That is why it is time for the United States to adopt the complete battery of legislation we need to grant full human rights to LGBT Americans.  We must do so to be compliant with our nation’s obligations under the international treaties and covenants to which we are party, and to live up to the values of equality, fairness, and inalienable rights that this democracy was founded upon. We are hopeful that the UN will similarly recommend that the United States rectify these issues based on an updated interpretation of our nation’s international obligations. The Council is eager to promote this unique moment, when the international and the domestic agendas for the LGBT rights movement come together in support of Global Equality.

The Council for Global Equality and HRC submit report to United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

As posted on HRC Action. April 23, 2010

Earlier this week, HRC, as a member of the Council for Global Equality, submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council [PDF] as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The purpose of the submission was to highlight ways in which the United States can improve human rights domestically. Our submission focused on deterring LGBT hate crimes, prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people — including the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law — and increasing the ability of LGBT individuals to form secure and stable families. Read more

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