Biden administration scraps Trump's anti-LGBTQ agenda abroad

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the reversal on Tuesday.

The Biden administration has thrown out a report from the Trump administration that human rights groups have criticized for de-prioritizing LGBTQ rights across the globe.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a 2020 report on the status of human rights that includes some 200 countries and territories.

"There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others," Blinken said. "Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those by the recently disbanded State Department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document for this administration."

In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, created the "Commission on Unalienable Rights," which was chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, an opponent of abortion rights and LGBTQ equality, and supported by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Last year, Pompeo announced the release of a report from the commission.

During that press conference, Pompeo said, "Americans do not only have unalienable rights but also positive rights: rights granted by governments, courts, multilateral bodies. Many are worth defending in light of our founding. Others aren't ... More rights doesn't necessarily mean more justice."

Amnesty International, Equity Forward, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch, among other advocacy groups, contacted foreign diplomats last fall to oppose that message. Human rights experts said that Pompeo's efforts could result in uncertainty among LGBTQ people that might affect whether they felt safe turning to U.S. embassies for support.

Ryan Thoreson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program, wrote at the time, "The report focuses at length on the US Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The report pays little attention to what followed these, including advancements in the rights of racial minorities, women, children, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as the growing realization of economic and social rights."

Blinken said on Tuesday, "One of the core principles of human rights is that the are universal. All people are entitled to these rights no matter where they were born, what they believe, who they love, or in any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal."

During the press conference, the new secretary of state mentioned LGBTQI people multiple times.

"Human rights are also interdependent," he said. "If you're denied equal access to a job or an education because of the color of your skin or your gender identity, how can you obtain health and well being for yourself or your family?"

He said that an important part of monitoring human rights issues includes awareness of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected marginalized groups, including LGBTQI people. Blinken added that the Trump administration's reports on the status of human rights abroad had also removed a section about reproductive health and that the Biden administration plans to release an addendum later in 2021 covering those issues and including them in future reports.

The announcement is part of a broader promise by President Joe Biden, who gave a speech at the U.S. State Department in February saying he would "reinvigorate our leadership on LGBTQ issues."

Biden issued a memorandum later that day which required executive agencies to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance officials both protect LGBTQ rights and promoted them whenever possible.

The memorandum also urged agencies engaged abroad to fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ people and give equal access to assistance and protection for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.

"Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights," the memorandum read. "The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.