Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) are opposing a U.S. effort to convince the “U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to grant ‘consultative status’ to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), a group “dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.” In a letter to the UN, the two Congressmen say that the group’s belief that freedom of speech should not “violate the rights and freedoms” of gay people could impugn the rights of anti-gay groups or governments and are resisting a U.S. led campaign to bypass the NGO-approval committee and hold a vote before the 54-member ECOSOC.
Anti-gay countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Egypt and Pakistan — where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment, whipping, or death — have stalled the IGLHRC’s application in the NGO-approval committee for the last three years, which Smith and Franks support. From their letter:
Serious questions regarding the IGLHRC’s support for the internationally recognized rights to freedom of religion and freedom of express remain outstanding in the NGO Committee. Consequently, a forced, premature action in ECOSOC to approve the IGLHRC would potentially undermine these important rights, as well as the long established due process for NGO review. [...]
As per its responsibilities, the NGO Committee is currently reviewing the application of IGLHRC for “promotion and protection” of human rights, including those listed above. In previous answers, the IGLHRC has stated before the Committee that States should, “Ensure that the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression does not violate the rights and freedoms of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities,” quoting the controversial Yogyakarta Principles, of which the IGLHRC is a strong advocate. Given this answer, the NGO Committee has asked the IGLHRC to clarify its position on the freedoms of religion and expression by asking the following question:
If a religion teaches that sexual relations other than between a man and a woman within wedlock is wrong, would the IGLHRC support the prosecution of a religious preacher for what he or she preaches against homosexuality, and would that be, in the organization’s view, consistent with the Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
The IGLHRC has yet to answer this extremely important question that goes to the heart of human rights protected by the United Nations system.
A representative from IGLHRC told TPMDC on Wednesday that “the group has time and again affirmed that, as a human rights organization, they support human rights — including freedom of religion and freedom of expression. She also said the group respects countries’ rights to make their own laws.” That speech only becomes indefensible when it incites violence against gay people.
The blog gay in public notes that “the irony in Rep. Smith’s invocation of freedom of speech to try to quash just that is hard to swallow. IGLHRC, which does important work throughout the world protecting sexual minorities, deserves to be treated just like every other human rights organization that seeks consultative status.” Smith and Franks have done their best resist civil rights legislation in Congress, voting against repeal of Don’t Ask, Dont’ Tell, hate crimes legislation, and ENDA.