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The Trump administration is being sued for trying to remove queer people from human rights laws

Lily Wakefield March 13, 2020
removing queer people from human rights laws

Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty)

Human rights activists are suing the US state department over steps the Trump administration has taken to remove queer people from human rights laws.

On July 7, 2019, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” based on “natural law” to undercut the US government’s existing human rights laws.

Pompeo claimed that the body was necessary because “international institutions designed and built to protect human rights have drifted from their original mission”, suggesting different rights have “come into tension with one another”.

He added that it would answer 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 honoured?”

The group is dominated by officials with anti-LGBT+ views, with seven of the ten members having expressed these views publicly, and when the commission was announced, anti-LGBT activist Brian Brown said it was an “extraordinary opening” to reverse LGBT+ equality.

Now, four human rights groups are suing the US Department of State and Pompeo, alleging that the Commission on Unalienable Rights violates federal law because it has no clear purpose, all of its members have the same religious, conservative viewpoint and its basis of “natural law” puts religion above all other human rights.

According to the lawsuit: “[Members of the commission] hold well-documented views that privilege religious liberty above all other fundamental human rights, and treat with skepticism, or outright derision, rights claims by LGBTQI individuals, proponents of gender parity, and women and girls seeking access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

It adds: “There is reason to believe the Secretary carefully selected the commission members to yield a pre-determined result: constraining the understanding of ‘unalienable’ human rights to the narrow set of rights allegedly grounded in theories of natural law.

“That result would exclude recognition of the rights of LGBTQI individuals seeking an end to unequal, discriminatory treatment, and of women and girls seeking equal treatment and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services—likely in violation of the United States’ treaty obligations.”

The complaint alleges that the commission violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires that “every advisory committee must be in the public interest, fairly balanced among competing points of view, and structured to avoid inappropriate influence by special interest”.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council on Global Equality which is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told PRI: “[Pompeo] believes that this commission will redefine our country’s approach to human rights in religious terms, and that it will be a significant change in terms of how we look at civil rights here in the United States, but really how the world looks at human rights.”

More: Commission on Unalienable Rights, Donald Trump, human rights laws, Mike Pompeo, trump administration

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