OutRight International Executive Director Jessica Stern
If anyone’s even bothering to keep score anymore, they can mark up yet another time the Trump administration has embarrassed our country in the presence of the rest of the world.
On Monday, March 13, Trump’s Department of State announced that the U.S.’s official delegation to the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women “includes representatives of two organizations known to oppose the U.N. human rights system,” according to a statement released today (Wednesday, March 15) by the international LGBT rights organization, OutRight International.
U.S. delegation members are Ambassador Nikki Haley, the U.S.’ ambassador to the U.N., who is head of the delegation; Ambassador Michele J. Sison, deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N.; Lisa Correnti, executive vice president of the Center for Family and Human Rights; Grace Melton with The Heritage Foundation, and technical experts from the departments of State, Labor and Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
A statement from the U.S. Department of State announcing the delegation members included acknowledgment that the Commission on the Status of Women is “the most important annual meeting on women’s issues at the United Nations.” But Outright International condemned both C-FAM and The Heritage Foundation as stridently anti-equality organizations. And a report in the British newspaper The Guardian warns, “U.S. may go cheek by jowl with women’s rights abusers at U.N. gender talks.”
The newspaper notes: “Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the ‘global gag rule’ and his proposed funding cuts to the U.N. are expected to embolden right-wing conservative groups seeking to undermine women’s rights during the CSW talks … . the U.S. delegation may find itself firmly aligned with conservative countries including Iran, Sudan and Syria — among the six countries targeted in Trump’s revised travel ban.”
The Guardian quotes Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, as saying, “It’s very likely we will see the U.S. standing shoulder to shoulder with Russia, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Sudan … some of the worst abusers of women’s rights around the world.”
Jessica Stern, OutRight International’s executive director, pointed out that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Haley have both “repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value,” but suggested that including Correnti and Melton in the delegation sends a completely different message.
“Fundamentalist notions about how women and girls should behave should never be the basis of advising or negotiating U.S. foreign policy,” Stern said. “It is also a bad sign that two organizations that have tried to delegitimize the United Nations and human rights internationally now sit on the official U.S. delegation. Maybe the violent mentality that got C-Fam labeled as a hate group successfully p/anders to their base, but the U.S. government must ensure protection for the world’s most vulnerable people.”
According to OutRight, C-FAM regularly posts “homophobic vitriol” on its website, has called for the criminalization of homosexuality and “has even espoused violence.” C-FAM President Austin Ruse has reportedly said the U.S. should have laws criminalizing “homosexual behavior” because even if they aren’t enforced, such laws “would help society to teach what is good, and also would prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.”
Ruse has also claimed that “the homosexual lifestyle is harmful to public health and morals” and in a 2014 interview said he wanted his children to attend private colleges “to keep them so far away from the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities, who should all be taken out and shot.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed C-FAM as a hate group since 2014.
OutRight also said that The Heritage Foundation and “its sister organizations [have] at least 11 past employees now working in the Trump administration” and that the Heritage Foundation “has provided much of the domestic and foreign policy blueprint the Trump administration used in its first days in office.”
The Heritage Foundation has called for a cut in funding to programs fighting violence against women, calling such programs a “misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that are truly the province of the federal government.”
OutRight said The Heritage Foundation “continually purports that anti-discrimination laws inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity are unjustified” and that such laws “grant special privileges” to LGBT people. The organization also “steadfastly rallies against the rights of transgender people,” OutRight said.
Stern continued, “Practically speaking, the U.S. should support CSW conclusions that condemn discrimination on any basis, support family diversity, and support the full range of conditions that enable women’s economic empowerment, including comprehensive family planning. While these ideas might seem like a leap of faith after the appointment of these organizations, these positions are the logical application of the principle of non-discrimination.
“Human rights are based on indivisibility, which also means that the U.S. cannot credibly support non-discrimination for LGBTI people while opposing family planning,” she said. “Women’s rights, reproductive choice, LGBTI rights, climate justice and the strength of the international human rights system all go hand-in-hand.
“The same groups advocating against women’s rights, immigrants, Muslims, the Affordable Care Act and LGBTI rights in the U.S. are taking these views to the international stage,” Stern said. “What the U.S. says about women from around the world at the CSW will be a sign of things to come for American women … . Domestic and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin.”