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US attempt to rewrite human rights, leaving out LGBT+, causes concern at UN

US attempt to rewrite human rights, leaving out LGBT+, causes concern at UN

  • European allies are not keen to join Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo’s new vision for human rights.
Mike Pompeo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to gain support at the UN for his new vision of human rights that leaves out LGBT+ people.

However, European allies are concerned about his attempts to prioritize religious liberty and property rights above modern human rights law.

That’s according to an exclusive report in the New York Times. The paper spoke to UN diplomats familiar with the situation on the condition of anonymity.

Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights has been controversial from the start. Experts spotted immediately that it was an attempt to erode or remove protection for women and LGBT+ people.

From the outset it aimed to revisit rights on the basis of ‘natural law’. Conservatives often use this ‘God-given’ basis of rights as a pseudo-intellectual justification for opposing LGBT+ rights.

To ensure this vision came out from the State Department’s review, Pompeo stacked it with homphobes and transphobes.

The draft report came out in July and became final in August.

Going back to the 40s

State Department representatives contacted allies including Britain and European Union members to promote Pompeo’s vision.

However, diplomats say the Europeans are deeply skeptical. They don’t agree human rights should be based on religion. Nor do they share Pompeo’s view that there are too many human rights.

Meanwhile State Department representatives tried a new tact. They asked UN members to affirm their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is the human rights document the United Nations passed in 1948.

However, the diplomats remain worried about that idea too. They see it as an attempt for the US to go back in time, ignoring rights gained by women, disabled and LGBT+ people.

Erasing LGBT+ rights

Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights argued that it was necessary to prioritize certain rights over others.

It claimed:  ‘There is good reason to worry that the prodigious expansion of human rights has weakened rather than strengthened the claims of human rights and left the most disadvantaged more vulnerable.

‘More rights do not always yield more justice. Transforming every worthy political preference into a claim of human rights inevitably dilutes the authority of human rights.’

In particular, the report proposes that ‘new rights’ should be consistent with ‘constitutional principles and moral, political, and legal traditions’. All these are pseudo-intellectual arguments which homophobes and transphobes often use to deny LGBT+ people of their human rights.

The report claims to accept the ‘universality’ of human rights. Despite this, it repeatedly indicates some human rights are not that important. For example, it says:

‘Decisions about the priority of rights are not only inescapable but desirable. In many circumstances certain rights have a necessary logical precedence.’

It specifically mentions same-sex marriage as an example of a social and political controversy. The report says it is not clear if it is a human rights issue.

Experts say that if Pompeo gets away with picking and choosing human rights, other nations may follow. That could allow China to excuse its persecution of religious minorities, for example.