by Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade
The U.S. delegation to an annual U.N. women’s conference includes two representatives of organizations that strongly oppose LGBT and intersex rights.
The State Department on March 13 announced the delegation to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting — which began on the same day and will end on March 24 — includes Center for Family and Human Rights Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti and Heritage Foundation Associate for Social Issues at the U.N. Grace Melton. The U.S. has also asked the Washington-based Organization of American States to formally recognize C-FAM in order to participate in its activities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated C-FAM as a hate group, noting its strong opposition to LGBT and intersex rights. The Heritage Foundation, which is a conservative think tank based in D.C., has also opposed these efforts.
Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb on Thursday wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Correnti and Melton’s appointments “do not serve the interests of women, including lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) women in the United States and abroad.” Cobb also said the State Department should “immediately rescind the appointment of these delegates who do not represent our shared American values.”
The Council for Global Equality and Human Rights First both note in letters they sent to Tillerson this week that C-FAM, among other things, supports a Russian law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors. They, like HRC, also point out the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated C-FAM as a hate group.
“The United States has worked hard to position itself as a leader on human rights within the United Nations and that progress is now in great jeopardy,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First in the letter his organization sent to Tillerson on Tuesday. “C-FAM is not just a conservative organization, but a radical organization that supports criminalizing the behavior of LGBT people, which often ends up criminalizing their very identities.”
Appointments ‘undermine’ U.S. positions on discrimination
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power championed LGBT and intersex rights during her ambassadorship. These efforts were part of the promotion of these issues that were a cornerstone of American foreign policy during President Obama’s second term.
Current U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing that American values “do not allow for discrimination of any kind to anyone.” Tillerson, who is the former CEO of ExxonMobil, made a similar statement during his confirmation hearing.
Neither he nor Haley specifically mentioned LGBT and intersex people.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Randy Berry remains in his position as special U.S. envoy to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad. The State Department’s annual human rights report that was released earlier this month notes discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity was commonplace in many parts of the world in 2016.
Human rights advocates criticized Tillerson for not publicly talking about the report’s release.
“In their Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value,” said OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in a statement on the appointment of Correnti and Melton to the U.N. Committee on the Status of Women.
“The appointment of these organizations to the official U.S. delegation undermines their positions,” added Stern. “I urge Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley to ensure that the U.S. delegation maintains nondiscrimination at the CSW in the face of obvious pressure from these newly appointed members of the delegation.”
Acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday that Correnti and Melton are not employees of the U.S. government and are not authorized to “speak or negotiate on behalf of the U.S.” while at the meeting.
Toner stressed the U.S. supports public delegates to the U.N. from “diverse view points.” He referred reporters to the White House about Correnti and Melton’s specific appointments.