Research Suggests U.S. Fails to Meet International Human Rights Standards for LGBT People

Published: July 10, 2014

Washington, DC – Social science research and legal analysis suggest the U.S. is failing to comply with international human rights standards in relation to LGBT people, according to testimony from Adam Romero, Arnold D. Kassoy Scholar of Law and Senior Counsel at UCLA’s Williams Institute, given to a committee at the State Department conducting a review of the United States’ human rights record.  While the U.S. has seen significant progress in recent years, a majority of states fail to provide legal protections for LGBT people and families, despite evidence of persistent and pervasive discrimination, economic vulnerability, and violence and sexual assault.

Every four years, each country undergoes a Universal Periodic Review that examines whether it has abided by commitments under international human rights treaties.  In addition to helping create the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the United States has ratified specific treaties addressing civil and political rights, race discrimination, and the treatment of refugees.  In the last review, held in 2010, the United Nations issued a long series of recommendations that called on the United States to take measures to comprehensively address discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Addressing documented discrimination in the United States is critical to the United States’ credibility on international human rights issues,” said Andrew Park, Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute and co-author of the Williams Institute’s statement presented by Romero. Research highlights that current U.S. policies are failing to meet persistent discrimination and disparities:

•  Research shows that 37% of lesbian and gay workers and 90% of transgender workers continue to face workplace discrimination. Because US law does not include a prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is not in compliance with international human rights standards.

•  Census data shows that LGBT people, particularly people of color, face higher rates of poverty.  International standards concerning race discrimination require the government to combat discrimination that threatens the health and wellbeing of LGBT people.

•  Surveys of LGBT people show that survivors of violence continue to face mistreatment by police when seeking assistance from them.  Police officers should receive more training and support about how to appropriately respond to LGBT people.

•  LGBT people in detention, particularly transgender people, face high rates of violence and sexual assault.  The government should ensure the human right to safety and health for those in detention.

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