Obama administration assesses status of lgbt rights in the U.S.
The State Department has filed with the United Nations the self-assessment report called for every five years in which governments describe their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In this Report of the U.S. on the ICCPR, lgbt rights issues figure prominently. As Council for Global Equality leader Julie Dorf describes, the featuring of lgbt issues signifies a sea change since the 2006 report:
In a major departure from a prior Bush Administration report, sexual orientation and gender identity issues featured prominently in this current submission, with an honest and reflective perspective on the state of LGBT rights in the United States. The report chronicles recent progress made to advance LGBT equality at the federal and state levels, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the passage of hate crime legislation, support for a variety of family recognition mechanisms, and the legal recognition of gender identity discrimination in the workplace.
When the United States presented its last report to the Committee on Human Rights in 2006, the U.S. delegation tried to deny the application of longstanding sexual orientation and gender identity protections under the ICCPR, even though the Committee has recognized rights to privacy and non-discrimination for LGBT individuals since at least 1992. During that 2006 review, a member of the UN Committee noted publicly that the U.S. delegation, which included the head of the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department, demonstrated a lack of awareness of the “longstanding and consistent” jurisprudence of the Committee on these issues. The UN expert expressed his concern that by denying the existence of these rights under the ICCPR, the U.S. government might suggest that persons of diverse sexual orientations and identities are not fully entitled to the rights to life and privacy under the treaty. In contrast, by reporting so extensively on LGBT-related concerns in this current UN report, the Obama Administration has now made an unequivocal legal statement recognizing that international law protects the human rights of all individuals, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Indeed, this is the legal justification for Secretary Clinton’s emphatic assertion that “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.”
The report also identifies a number of areas in which LGBT equality has not been achieved, but where the Obama Administration has been stymied by Congress, such as with the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the enactment of federal workplace nondiscrimination legislation.