Alex Blaze

Two questions the HRC forgot to ask

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 06, 2007 10:24 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Democrats, HRC, international, LGBT homeless, presidential campaign, sodomy laws

After getting the long-form questionnaires all in from the Democratic presidential candidate, the HRC has compiled all that information into an easy-to-read pdf. Everyone's supportive of the same things, except for Kucinich on federal marriage, and Mike Gravel didn't answer, but I think we know where he stands.

So they say they're down with hate crimes legislation, ENDA, repealing DADT, and half a dozen couples-related issues (because we have to make sure everyone knows the HRC is pro-monogamy, can't let anyone forget it). I'm left wondering where my two pet issues are on this list, and they're both valid queer political questions.

The first that should have been asked but wasn't is: Do you support increasing federal funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act with a portion of that funding earmarked for LGBT shelters and staff-training? The NGLTF estimates that anywhere from twenty to forty percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT in some way. Our youth are also more likely to face violence, harassment, and discrimination once in already underfunded shelters. According to the NGLTF:

At one residential placement facility in Michigan, LGBT teens, or those suspected of being LGBT, were forced to wear orange jumpsuits to alert staff and other residents. At another transitional housing placement, staff removed the bedroom door of an out gay youth, supposedly to ward off any homosexual behavior. The second bed in the room was
left empty and other residents were warned that if they misbehaved they would have to share the room with the "gay kid."
All this puts our youth at higher risk for mental illness like addiction and depression and physical harm like STD's and abuse.

With youth and homelessness advocacy groups often afraid to ask for funding for LGBT-specific programs for fear of a conservative backlash, our advocacy groups need to be pressuring the potential leaders of this country on this issue. We should have a promise in writing, or at least know if a candidate is too afraid to support homeless youth of any sexuality or gender identity.

The second question that the HRC should have asked is: Are you willing to put diplomatic human rights pressure on other nations that criminalize homosexuality and nontraditional gender expression and deny the basic human rights of LGBT people? This is an issue only the president can address well. With close to 80 countries still having sodomy laws on their book and other laws that prevent people from talking about sexual orientation, governments cracking down on peaceful demonstrations by our queer brothers and sisters, and public hangings of gay teens, the world can be a downright dangerous place to be queer. And it's definitely not out of place for a country such as ours to put human rights pressure on other nations. The governments of Germany and Italy recently released statements on Russia's crackdown of Moscow Pride, the EU's Congress passed a resolution condemning Nigeria's bill to prevent queer people from assembling, Australia condemned Fiji's sodomy law several years ago, and there was an international chorus condemning Iran's hanging of two gay teens. With Bush unwilling to use his position of power in the world to help fight this violence, we need to make sure that the next president will.

Click on the link above, and read the questions that the HRC asked. They focus on marriage and marriage-related issues, but issues of couplehood definitely are not the only ones facing our people. Our advocacy groups are supposed to give voice to the voiceless, but homeless youth and overseas queers are among the most voiceless of our people, but also the most negatively affected by homophobia. If our advocacy groups can't fight for their well-being, then who else will?

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Alex, this is an excellent post.

I've been reading alot about both these issues. The violence homeless GLBT youth are facing is of epidemic proportions. In fact there is a documentary "Out in the Cold" which a significant portion was filmed in Indianapolis to illustrate that the problem is right in the heartland of America. The "Christian" state of Indiana. It goes on to say that many of the affected homeless GLBT youth were from "Christian" homes that were violently kicked out of their homes when they came out to their parents.

I also read recently about the extreme violence being committed against GLBT in Jamaica. Congress needs to step up and put pressure on these countries.

We need to keep talking about this and educating folks. By all means everyone should write letters with supporting evidence that these are real issues that need to be addressed.

I agree with you about homeless youth and the HRC's single issue focus. But in terms of putting pressure on other countries, the US has been kicked off the UN Human Rights Council and we have "unsigned" the treaty that establishes the International Criminal Court. You can't unsign a treaty, but hey. Whatever. My point is that the ICC, which is supposed to prevent/respond to genocide, specifically wrote LGBTQ people out of the treaty. Article 7(3) is the section that deals with gender-based war crimes/acts of genocide. Section (h) states that "for the purposes of this treaty, the terms gender shall refer to the biological sexes, male and female, and should not be interpreted to mean anything different from the above." Who was responsible for attaching the language? An unholy alliance between the US, Iran, and the Vatican. It would be very hypocritical for the US to put any sort of pressure on other countries over the issue of LGBTQ rights until the US #1 resigns the ICC treaty, and #2 works to amend Article 7(3)h. We also need to get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan and bust some ass to be invited back to the Human Rights Council. Sorry to be the pessimistic voice in the conversation, but I seriously doubt there's enough rusty trombones and golden showers we could take to accomplish that.

It would be very hypocritical for the US to put any sort of pressure on other countries over the issue of LGBTQ rights until the US #1 resigns the ICC treaty, and #2 works to amend Article 7(3)h.
Ok, that sounds like another two questions right there.

I advocate all positions in the form of demanding the HRC write up questions.