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A United Nations committee says it is “deeply concerned” about numerous U.S. human and civil rights abuses in a new report, including the ongoing rise in state-level discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
On November 3, the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) concluded its review of the state of human rights in the U.S., the first such review held in nine years due to a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee’s report highlighted 29 different “matters of concern” in which the U.S. continues to violate the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, despite signing on to the document in 1992. In particular, the committee expressed concern over worsening “discriminatory treatment that persons continue to face based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Although the report lauded some recent federal reforms, like the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, committee members expressed repeated concern over unchecked anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination by state governments, which has proliferated across the country in recent years. The report specifically called out laws that “ban and, in some instances, criminalize gender-affirming health care for transgender persons” and those that “limit discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity issues in school,” like Florida’s now-infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“The [United States] should adopt all measures necessary to ensure that state laws that discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity are repealed,” the committee recommended, adding that the Biden administration should “intensify its efforts to combat violence against and discrimination” toward LGBTQ+ people. It also called on the U.S. to improve its hate crime data collection and provide “full reparation” to victims and their families.
The committee also identified more than two dozen other areas in which the U.S. urgently needs to address human rights violations, including murdered and missing Indigenous women, the criminalization of homelessness, drone bombings abroad, and racism in policing. The report also criticized the U.S. for failing to protect human rights in territories it controls, like Puerto Rico and Guam. But despite a laundry list of major concerns, human rights watchdogs say that U.S. ambassadors did not take the committee or its report seriously, especially as they related to policing and military issues.
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“At times it seemed that AI-generated responses would have been more qualitative,” ACLU Human Rights Program director Jamil Dakwar told PBS, criticizing what he called “scripted, general, and often meaningless responses” from the U.S. delegation. Andrea Guerrero, executive director of the community activist organization Alliance San Diego (which led a protest inside the hearing room on its final day), also called the responses “deeply disappointing.”
“The Committee’s findings should be a wake-up call for state and federal lawmakers in the United States,” said international watchdog group Human Rights Watch in a statement last week. “Amid an aggressive backlash, state lawmakers should stop actively undermining US human rights obligations and repeal discriminatory laws, and the federal government should both enact comprehensive legislation to safeguard LGBT people’s rights and enforce existing civil and human rights guarantees.”
This is far from the first time LGBTQ+ rights abuses in the U.S. have drawn international attention. Last year, U.N. Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz concluded that “equality is not within reach, and often not even within sight” for many U.S. citizens who are LGBTQ+.
“The evidence shows that, without exception, these actions rely on prejudiced and stigmatizing views of LGBT persons, in particular transgender children and youth, and seek to leverage their lives as props for political profit,” Madrigal-Borloz wrote at the time.
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