Pompeo Commission Should Be Shut Down Over Hostility to LGBTQ Rights, Activists Say

By Emiene Wright

March 9, 2020

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, and others have filed a lawsuit aiming to shut down the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which was established by the Secretary of State in 2019.

A collective of human rights organizations have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department over the Commission on Unalienable Rights, an advisory committee Pompeo established in 2019 to examine which human rights should be “honored” in foreign policy. 

Federal law stipulates such boards must be balanced in terms of viewpoint and their advice publicly accessible, but the rights organizations–which include Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, and others—say it is packed with members openly hostile to LGBTQ rights and reproductive freedom. 

“Most of these members, moreover, hold well-documented views that privilege religious liberty above all other fundamental human rights, and treat with skepticism, or outright derision, rights claims by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (“LGBTQI”) individuals, proponents of gender parity, and women and girls seeking access to sexual and reproductive health and rights,” states the complaint, which was filed Friday in the Southern District of New York. 

The Commission has also failed “to provide adequate notice of meetings and to release key documents to the public,” according to the suit.

The plaintiffs argue because that the State Department violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act—the law that establishes how advisory committees should be established—the courts should shut the board down and block Pompeo and other officials from accepting its recommendations.

The concern, as expressed by former government officials and activists, is that the committee will attempt to roll back important international human rights protections. 

During the Commission’s fourth open session in January, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth told the committee: “The US government’s voice is needed on human rights, but it should be a voice that upholds the principled defense of all rights, not a pick-and-choose approach.

“Repressive governments frequently justify their human rights violations by claiming that some rights are more important than others. If the Trump administration adopts its own selective approach to human rights, it will only facilitate this classic excuse to evade the requirements of international human rights law.”




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