Two Republican congressmen are urging other countries — including, potentially, some where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death — to vote against an American-led effort in the U.N. to recognize a respected international gay rights group.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has been trying since May 2007 to win accreditation from the United Nations, which would allow the NGO to have a voice at the international body. But the group’s application for “consultative status” had been deferred by the status-granting NGO committee until early last month, when the committee voted to block its application.
Among the countries voting against the application: Egypt, Angola, Burundi, China, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and Sudan. In all those countries but Russia and China, LGBT people can be jailed, fined, whipped or killed if they are caught by authorities.
The committee, which has a history of voting against gay rights organizations, makes its recommendations to the Economic and Social Council, which makes the final decision on consultative status.
After last month’s vote, Ambassador Susan Rice submitted a resolution to the council to consider the IGLHRC’s application directly, saying the organization’s “widely respected advocacy and research has given a voice to those who have long suffered in silence.”
A vote on the resolution is expected Monday, according to IGLHRC spokeswoman Sara Perle.
But two Republicans, Reps. Chris Smith (NJ) and Trent Franks (AZ), have written a letter, obtained by TPMmuckraker, to the many of the other countries on the council urging them to vote against the resolution.
They claim that the LGBT rights group is a threat to human rights, including freedom of religion.
“Serious questions regarding the IGLHRC’s support for the internationally recognized rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression remain outstanding in the NGO Committee. Consequently, a forced, premature action by the [council] to approve the IGLHRC would potentially undermine these important rights,” they wrote.
Smith is the Republican congressional representative to the U.N. and Franks leads an international religious freedom caucus in the House.
They wrote the letter to representatives from many of the other countries on the Economic and Social Council.
Countries on the council include places where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment, whipping, or death: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Egypt and Pakistan are the most famously harsh countries. Homosexuality is also illegal in Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mauritius, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Zambia.
IGLHRC’s mission is focused on eliminating such laws, and they advocate against state-sanctioned violence based on sexual orientation.
Smith and Franks want to kill the U.S. motion to recognize IGLHRC, they say, because the group never answered a question from the NGO committee about whether they would “support the prosecution of a religious preacher for what he or she preaches against homosexuality.”
Perle told TPMmuckraker that, because the question was submitted in the last session of the committee, it’s true her group has not answered that particular question. But, she says, the group has time and again affirmed that, as a human rights organization, they support human rights — including freedom of religion and freedom of expression. She also said the group respects countries’ rights to make their own laws.
Neither Franks nor Smith returned requests for comment.