Controversial State Department Human Rights Commission Disbanded

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced the State Department has officially disbanded a controversial human rights advisory commission that LGBTQ+ activists sharply criticized.

"One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal. All people are entitled to these rights, no matter where they're born, what they believe, whom they love, or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal; there is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others," Blinken told reporters on Tuesday as he discussed the release of the State Department's annual human rights report.

"Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those offered by a recently disbanded State Department advisory committee, do not represent a guiding document for this administration," he added, referring to the Commission on Unalienable Rights. "At my confirmation hearing, I promised that the Biden-Harris administration would repudiate those unbalanced views. We do so decisively today."

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019 announced the commission — chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican who is known for her opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples — would stress "natural laws and natural rights." The Center for Global Equality and other groups challenged the commission in federal court.

"This commission was flawed from the start, conceived with the original sin of Christian nationalism," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in a press release. "May its siblings soon follow it into obscurity."

President Biden in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ rights abroad.

Blinken is among the administration officials who publicly acknowledged the Transgender Day of Visibility on Wednesday. Blinken told reporters after the State Department released its annual human rights report the pandemic "has disproportionately impacted the individuals and groups in our societies who were already subject to abuse, to discrimination, to marginalization before the pandemic, such as racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI persons."

"Standing up for human rights everywhere is in America's interests," said Blinken. "And the Biden-Harris administration will stand against human rights abuses wherever they occur, regardless of whether the perpetrators are adversaries or partners."

This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.