Trump’s commission on human rights issues report undermining LGBTQ people & international law

President Trump stands in front of a burning pride flag
Photo: Graham Gremore

A draft report released by the State Department shows that the Trump administration is trying to cement its position that LGBTQ rights are not fundamental human rights and that “religious freedom” should be protected over LGBTQ people when they come into conflict, critics said.

Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a new Commission on Unalienable Rights, which he said would seek answers to questions like “How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored?”

Related: One of the biggest antigay activists says Trump’s human rights commission is their ‘opportunity’

“Words like ‘rights’ can be used for good or evil,” he said.

The commission was stacked with anti-LGBTQ and Christian conservative activists, and even resulted in a lawsuit that accused the State Department of developing “an alternative definition of human rights” that excludes women and LGBTQ people, “likely in violation of the United States’ treaty obligations.”

Now a draft of the commission’s report shows that the critics were prescient. The report mentions “religion” or religious freedom 43 times, but it doesn’t mention LGBTQ people at all outside of labeling marriage equality and anti-discrimination measures “divisive social and political controversies.”

“The U.S. government cannot unilaterally redefine which human rights will be respected and which will be ignored,” said Tarah Demant of Amnesty International USA.

She said that the Trump administration’s “effort to cherry-pick rights in order to deny some their human rights is a dangerous political stunt that could spark a race to the bottom by human rights-abusing governments around the world.”

“The administration is seeking to create a hierarchy of rights, where it gets to decide which rights are ‘unalienable’ and which rights are what it calls in the report ‘divisive social and political controversies,’ a category which predictably includes sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights.”

Jayne Huckerby, a human rights expert at Duke Law School, told Mother Jones that the commission “elevates religious freedom as an unalienable right” but “dismisses” reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

She said that the report “recognizes that legally there should be no hierarchy between different types of rights” but “still calls for U.S. foreign policy to de-emphasize economic and social rights compared with civil and political ones.”

Molly Bangs of Equity Forward said that the report is part of the Trump administration’s “consistent and continued erasure of LGBTQ people.”

“LGBTQ people face threats to their health, safety, and civil rights here at home and around the globe and this report makes zero mention of protecting their rights.”

One of the few pro-LGBTQ successes that the Trump administration frequently claims is former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell’s campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide.

The campaign hasn’t done much or had any successes, and now the State Department is actively undermining its goal by elevating religious freedom above other human rights, since religion is often used to justify anti-LGBTQ laws.

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