A More Perfect Union, A More Perfect World

That’s the phrase that begins the “Report of the United States of America Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review,” (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/146379.pdf) submitted by the Obama Administration for a 2010-2011 United Nations review.  

It deserves mention here because its prominent inclusion of LGBT issues has been underpublicized in the LGBT world.  This, after all, is a document that is supposed to represent the United States to the rest of the world. 

In the first paragraph under Fairness and Equality, the Obama Administration notes that it has appointed “several LGBT individuals to senior positions in the Executive Branch.”  (I’m intrigued by the sentence that follows:  “And while individual stories do not prove the absence of enduring challenges, they demonstrate the presence of possibilities.”)

More substantially, the section on “Fairness, equality, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons,” is preceded only by the section on persons with disabilities (the sections that follow are on Muslims, Arab-Americans, and South Asian American persons; women; Native Americans; work; housing; education; and law enforcement).  Here’s the complete text of the LGBT section:

In each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build a more fair society.  In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.  In 2003, reversing a prior decision, the Supreme Court struck down a state criminal law against sodomy, holding that criminalizing consensual private sexual practices between adults violates their rights under the Constitution.  With the recent passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the United States has bolstered its authority to prosecute hate crimes, including those motivated by animus based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  Since 1998, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has been prohibited in federal employment.  Earlier this year, the Administration extended many benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, and supports the pending Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, a law that would extend additional benefits currently accorded to married couples to same-sex partners.  Furthermore, President Obama is committed to the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute, which prevents  gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, and both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense have testified at congressional hearings in support of its repeal.  The President has also supported passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Debate continues over equal rights to marriage for LGBT Americans at the federal and state levels, and several states have reformed their laws to provide for same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.  At the federal level, the President supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.


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