UN expert ‘alarmed’ over curtailment of LGBTQ, intersex rights in US

ABOVE: Victor Madrigal-Borloz. Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers.

The independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues has expressed concern over efforts to curtail the rights of LGBTQ and intersex people in states across the U.S.

“I am deeply alarmed by a widespread, profoundly negative riptide created by deliberate actions to roll back the human rights of LGBT people at (the) state level,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz Aug. 30 during a press conference. “The evidence shows that, without exception, these actions rely on prejudiced and stigmatizing views of LGBT persons, in particular transgender children and youth, and seek to leverage their lives as props for political profit.”

Madrigal-Borloz last month traveled to D.C., Alabama, Florida and California.

Madrigal-Borloz met with officials from the State and Justice Departments, the National Security Council and the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones and staffers of the Birmingham (Ala.) Civil Rights Institute and the Human Rights Campaign are among those with whom Madrigal-Borloz sat down. A U.N. press release also notes Madrigal-Borloz met “with authorities” at a detention center for asylum seekers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego.

“Despite five decades of progress, equality is not within reach, and often not even within sight, for all persons impacted by violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States,” said Madrigal-Borloz.

Madrigal-Borloz in his comments noted the White House continues to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights in the U.S. and around the world.

President Joe Biden on June 15 signed a sweeping executive order that, among other things, directs federal government agencies to develop policies that will counter Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law and other anti-LGBTQ laws that states have enacted.

Biden during his remarks at a White House Pride event that took place on the same day he issued the directive noted violence against transgender people of color and other vulnerable LGBTQ people has increased in the U.S.

Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House a few months later appointed Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad.

The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. Stern later noted to the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview that marriage equality “is one element of our longstanding and ongoing commitment to advance the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”

“The Biden-Harris administration has adopted powerful and meaningful actions that are in conformity with international human rights law, reveal a thoughtful strategy created through participative approaches, and provide significant capacity for their implementation,” said Madrigal-Borloz. “This is exactly the combination of values, knowledge, and muscle that can drive social change.

“In light of a concerted attack to undermine these actions, I exhort the administration to redouble its efforts to support the human rights of all LGBT persons living under its jurisdiction, and helping them to safe waters,” he added.

The Blade has reached out to the White House for comment on Madrigal-Borloz’s comments.

A State Department spokesperson on Thursday told the Blade the State Department supports “the important work of (the) Independent Expert for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and look forward to reviewing his final report in the coming months.”

“We welcomed the Independent Expert and coordinated meetings with federal, state and local governments and civil society organizations across the country,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson referred the Blade to Biden’s June 15 executive director. The spokesperson further stressed that “human rights are at the core of U.S. foreign policy, and that includes standing up for and defending the full recognition of the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”

“We engage in this work with humility, knowing that our road forward on these issues at home has been complex, and progress has been non-linear, and has come at the cost of great struggle and loss,” said the spokesperson. “We believe LGBTQI+ rights are human rights.”

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