Public Comment

Commission on Unalienable Rights: Public Comment

April 2020

In July 2019, the U.S. Department of State announced a new Commission on Unalienable Rights. The Commission aims to examine the role of human rights in foreign policy and distinguish international human rights that are “unalienable” from those that are “ad hoc.”

Public statements made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Commission members indicate that the Commission intends to produce recommendations that would prioritize some rights, namely, the freedom of religion, over others. Such designations could endanger the lives of marginalized communities around the world, such as women, people of color, and LGBT people.

Despite advances in recent years, consensual same-sex activity remains criminalized in 69 countries, and sexual and gender minorities remain at risk throughout the world. Relegating LGBT rights to a subsidiary status would further stigmatize sexual and gender minorities and provide fodder for authoritarian leaders to target the LGBT population.

Scholars discuss how international human rights treaties have not generated a “proliferation” of rights, as some members of the Commission have claimed. Instead, they have resulted in a more equal extension of rights to groups and individuals who had previously been excluded for historical, political, or other reasons.

In addition, the comment details how global human rights bodies, such as the International Commission of Jurists and the United Nations Human Rights Council, have recognized the universality of human rights protections for LGBT people. Prioritizing some rights over others may benefit authoritarian regimes and endanger the safety, well-being, and dignity of LGBT communities outside the U.S. and failing to promote LGBT rights would reflect a departure from longstanding US foreign policy and abandonment of global leadership.

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Commission on Unalienable Rights: Public Comment