President’s strange bedfellow

Posted on 02 Feb 2006 at 11:32pm
By Libby Post – Lesbian Notions

Even sworn enemies are acceptable cohorts when it comes to marginalizing LGBT voices

The Bush administration’s homophobia has gone international.

At the United Nations recently, the United States joined with some of the most repressive governments to deny two international LGBT groups nongovernmental organization (NGO) observer status.

When it comes to marginalizing the LGBT community, this administration will cozy up with anyone.

Administration buddies like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family have been joined on the international scene by countries such as China, Zimbabwe and Iran.

Yes, you read that right Iran.

We may demonize that country publicly, but when it comes to privacy issues, George is a political whore.

He’ll become political bedfellows with anyone an individual, an organization or, in this case, a country he considers our sworn enemy to further his radical Christian right crusade against the LGBT community.

Who would have been hurt if the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and the Danish Association of Gays and Lesbians (LBL) were allowed to speak for the LGBT community at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council, which advises the international organization on economic and social issues?

After all, there are 634 NGOs affiliated with the council. We’re talking about groups like the Humane Society, the American Jewish Congress and Greenpeace.

But we’re also talking about groups like Focus on the Family, Feminists for Life of America, the National Right to Life Education Trust Fund and the Alliance for Marriage.

I think it would only be fair to balance out some of the homophobic political perspectives inherent in some of these organizations with a few LGBT voices.
But instead of a fair hearing which all other NGOs who have requested representation have gotten ILGA’s and LBL’s requests were summarily dismissed without any discussion.

The dismissal, which was done by the council’s NGO committee, happened after ILGA and LBL went through the rather exhausting process that got them to the point where they could even ask for a hearing.

All of this was preceded by the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of Egypt and the Organization of Islamic Conferences to exclude the two groups.

Rosanna Flamer Caldera, co-secretary general of ILGA, which represents a worldwide network of more than 400 LGBT organizations, considers the exclusion “a clear violation of due process and an attempt to discriminate against LGBT NGOs on procedural grounds.”

Some may shrug their shoulders at the U.S. actions. But as 40 LGBT and LGBT-allied organizations pointed out to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a Jan. 25 letter, the United States voted yes when the entire council voted in 2002 to include ILGA as an NGO.

The groups including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Human Rights Watch, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Black Justice Coalition asked Rice if it was now our country’s policy to “oppose consultative status for all organizations working to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”
If it is, this flies in the face of the State Department’s own reporting on severe human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

The department’s 2004 report on Iran chronicled the executions of gay men. Its report on Zimbabwe noted that President Robert Mugabe has consistently denounced gays and lesbians, blaming them for “Africa’s ills.”

So the question begs to be answered: How can the United States recognize human rights atrocities against LGBT people in other countries, yet refuse to give those who are repressed a voice in bringing that repression to light?

We were more than happy to give voice to the Chinese students in Tiananmen Square who bristled against the yoke of that country’s communist regime. Today, we’re all about building democracy in Iraq.

But let LGBT people stand up and speak for themselves? Never.
And how do we make sure LGBT people won’t be heard? We get into bed with our political enemies.

If ever there was a situation that shows how morally bankrupt this administration is, this is it.

I don’t think Condi’s written a response yet. But this year, there will be two great opportunities for the international LGBT community to respond for ourselves and shed light on the United States’ complicity. ILGA’s next world conference will be in Geneva from March 27-April 3, the same time the U.N. Commission on Human Rights will be in that city, and where the Commission’s on-going discussion about sexual orientation and human rights is sure to continue.

Later, in the summer, some 2,000 LGBT activists from around the globe will converge in Montreal from July 26-29 for the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, which is sponsored by OutGames, an international LGBT sporting event that takes place right after the conference.

“Our ultimate goal with this conference is to adopt what we’re calling the “‘Montreal Declaration,’ an unequivocal affirmation that LGBT right are human rights,” said Louise Roy, CEO of the conference and OutGames.

“Once passed, we will do everything in our power to bring that resolution to the United Nations,” she said.

It may be easy for our administration to ignore the events in Geneva.
But when thousands of LGBT folks gather just 35 miles north of our border, it will be a bit more difficult to turn a blind eye to the injustices we face each and every day and our collective resolve to stop them.

Or at least, it should be.

Libby Post is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web and in print.

E-mail LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 3, 2006

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