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UN, New York, Dec. 10—In a speech at a UN event to mark International Human Rights Day, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice today announced that the U.S. will press for a major UN vote to restore language in a human rights resolution on extrajudicial killings to emphasize that LGBT people are often the targets of such murders.
The high-level panel marking human rights day focused exclusively on violence, discrimination and related abuse against LGBT communities worldwide.
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U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced on Friday that the U.S. will press for a major UN vote to restore language in a resolution on extrajudicial killings to emphasize that LGBT people are often the targets of such murders. The resolution in the UN General Assembly is on “Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.”
A fight on this language will take place on the floor of the UN General Assembly on December 20. Friendly states will seek to restore sexual orientation language that was lost in a surprising vote last month in the committee of the General Assembly that marks up human rights resolutions. This will be a difficult vote, and victory is not certain, but it represents a very principled and strong U.S. government commitment to LGBT rights. Please download advocacy materials here in English, French or Spanish that NGOs are using at the UN and in capitals to press their governments to vote the right way on December 20.
These were prepared by a coalition of NGOs with ARC International
taking the lead. Please distribute widely to any colleagues in government or in the NGO advocacy world who might be in a position to influence their government’s vote.
Additional information on the speech by Amb. Rice at a Human Rights Day event at the UN on Friday can be found here.
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“LGBT Rights Are Human Rights – Once and for All”
A central tenant of our work is that U.S. foreign policy leaders should respond to human rights concerns directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity with the same level of commitment that our government has demonstrated in responding to human rights abuses directed at other marginalized or targeted communities around the world. Here, then, are some of our key successes in making LGBT human rights concerns a foreign policy issue in Washington and beyond.
- Based in part on a transition memo prepared by the Council, the Obama Administration reversed an earlier Bush policy and in March 2009 joined more than 60 other nations in supporting the “UN General Assembly Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” that calls on all countries to decriminalize consensual relations and protect the fundamental rights of LGBT individuals. The U.S. is now a member of the “core group” of UN member states that continues to push this statement at the United Nations.
- The Council requested and secured similar diplomatic leadership from U.S. diplomats at the Organization of American States (OAS), where the U.S. has supported a consensus resolution for the past three years on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity; and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), where the U.S. last year for the first time began addressing LGBT violence and discrimination under the organization’s human rights mandate, and where the Council’s Senior Adviser, former Ambassador Michael Guest, served as the head of the U.S. delegation to an important human rights review conference in Warsaw in 2010.
- The Council helped channel the outrage of LGBT Americans at the proposed “anti-homosexuality” bill in Uganda into diplomatic action. The Obama Administration responded and provided unprecedented diplomatic attention to what President Obama described as an “odious” bill, including direct engagement by the President, the Secretary of State and the U.S. Embassy. Similar attention has also been applied to unfolding human rights “crisis” situations impacting LGBT communities in a number of other countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
- To honor LGBT Pride month in June 2010, and at the urging of the Council, Secretary Clinton delivered a speech where she highlighted the State Department’s ongoing commitment to LGBT rights and emphatically declared that “just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.” After the speech, the Department sent a diplomatic cable to all U.S. embassies to clarify LGBT human rights policy, and the Department also recently submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council in which it 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.”
- The Council was the only NGO that was invited to address a conference of human rights reporting officers in 2009 to help emphasize the importance of LGBT reporting, and in 2010, the Human Rights Bureau of the State Department included significantly more information on LGBT rights in its annual human rights report, with a new section for each country chapter that is now specifically dedicated to reporting on “sexual orientation and gender identity.” This was also the first year that embassies were specifically required to report on gender identity concerns.
- After repeated requests, the State Department issued funding solicitations to support LGBT human rights defenders (at a commitment of $269,000) and LGBT civil society organizations in Africa (at a commitment of $1million). Council staff helped member organizations bid on the solicitations and offered strategic advice during the proposal process.
- The Council has worked closely with a coalition of refugee organizations and with the Refugee Bureau in the State Department to highlight the unique vulnerabilities of LGBT refugees and to create an expedited refugee resettlement process for LGBT human rights defenders in extreme danger who need immediate access to protection and resettlement.
Geneva, November 5
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– 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 an NGO 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.
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July 19, 2010 -- In a contentious vote, the UN today granted consultative status to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), despite strong objections from states that stand opposed to the recognition of LGBT rights at the UN. IGLHRC, a founding member of the Council, is the first LGBT group from the United States to secure this special status, and one of only a handful of LGBT groups in the world that has successfully navigated this hostile process. The Council congratulates IGLHRC and recognizes the strong leadership in support of this vote that came from the White House, the State Department, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and from leading members of Congress.
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United States Mission to the OSCE
Session 5: The role of education to promote mutual understanding
and respect for diversity according to OSCE commitments
As prepared for delivery by Bishop John Bryson Chane
to the OSCE High-Level Conference on
Tolerance and non-Discrimination
June 30, 2010
As a public member of the United States delegation, I am honored to participate in this important session promoting mutual understanding and respect for diversity. The United States places great importance on respect for diversity and combating intolerance and discrimination around the world. It is the policy of the United States to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings, including the rights of the most vulnerable individuals in society.The United States condemns all human rights violations and private acts of violence committed against all individuals, including those committed on account of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.
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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 full ICCPR report
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U.S. Department of State announced that beginning on June 10 transgender individuals will only need to present certification from an attending physician that the applicant has "undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition” in order to declare a new gender on the passport. Under the previous rules, the individual applying for the passport change was required to have completed sexual reassignment surgeries The new rules also allow for an individual to obtain a limited-validity passport if the physician’s statement shows the applicant is in the process of gender transition.
Read the full State Department Press Release.
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At the end of April, 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, focusing on a variety of LGBT issues here at home. This submission is a rare example of international and domestic advocacy coming together to invigorate one another. The report was submitted for "Universal Periodic Review" (UPR), a relatively new mechanism of the UN's Human Rights Council by which every nation has its own human rights record reviewed by other states in a peer review process. This process is one of the key "naming and shaming" tools that the UN uses to address human rights issues around the world, and it is a mechanism that LGBT groups have increasingly relied on to draw international attention to our struggles for equality.
As a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, the State Department and other federal officials have traveled the country convening "listening sessions" to help shape the U.S. report to the United Nations. In April, they heard from groups in San Francisco, including a panel of individuals convened by the Council for Global Equality who testified to the impact of abuses committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity here in the United States. Those powerful and heartbreaking personal stories can be heard here (UPR LGBT Panel ), and they 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 and in so many other countries around the world.
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March 11, 2010 – The State Department today released a report to Congress that examines the human rights record of every country around the world. Once again, the report documents a growing crisis in human rights abuse directed against LGBT people worldwide.
For the first time ever, most of the country chapters have a dedicated section examining “societal abuses, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” In its cumulative impact, the report makes clear that LGBT rights are firmly rooted in basic human rights protections and that those protections are under severe attack in the world today.
Responding to the coverage of Uganda in the report, senior adviser and former U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest applauded “President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s principled belief that the human rights of LGBT people cannot be separated from those of all of society.” Emphasizing that “many of the most egregious abuses have been committed in countries considered to be friends and allies of the United States,” he urged that the State Department develop strategies to counter intolerance and homophobia in every region, drawing on all the tools of American diplomacy.
See the Council’s full press release here.
See an edited compendium of all LGBT references in the report here.
Watch a short video of Secretary Clinton delivering remarks to the press about the Release of the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.