Why is there so much fuss about human rights, and why do LGBTQ+ groups need to keep fighting for them? We’re glad you asked two such important questions at once, and we’re going to do our best to answer them.
We’ll consider human rights in general and how LGBTQ+ human beings are working hard to assert their human rights. It makes sense that all people, and all people in the USA, should enjoy the same set of human rights.
The human rights at stake fall into broad categories, with some overlap:
- Fundamental human rights
- Civil and political rights
- Economic, social and cultural rights
After a bit of background, we’ll make a broad-strokes comparison between the US Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Next, we’ll outline the current situation at federal and state levels in light of LGBTQ+ community experiences.
Advocacy needs to talk of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance in an awareness-raising kind of way that hetero-normative human beings can understand. So, we’ll end by summarizing what still needs to be done regarding LGBTQ+ in the human rights arena.
So, make an effort to read on – we guarantee you’ll learn something new!
Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt’s Husband?
Eleanor Roosevelt’s husband was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. In 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt became the very first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which came into being on 10 December 1948.
The Preamble to the Declaration’s 30 Articles begins by giving recognition to “the inherent dignity and […] equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. It states that such recognition “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
The human rights detailed the UDHR are often called fundamental human rights. Thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt, the UDHR can be thought of as having originated at least in part in the USA.
Are All UN Human Rights Enshrined in the US Constitution?
Now, we’re diving into a somewhat complex area. Human rights are both a legal and social issue. The Constitution of the United States and its Amendments govern how these issues are regulated.
If you’re interested, read this useful article on US engagement with human rights as we know them in the modern world. It shows which US Constitutional Amendments correspond to the United Nations UDHR. It also pinpoints which human rights haven’t received enough attention under US law.
Many rights in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights do equate to the rights enumerated in the UDHR. The US Constitution is strong on the rights of political and civil liberties.
Aside from that, the US Supreme Court has ruled on fundamental rights that are not explicitly stated in the Constitution. These include freedom of movement and presumption of innocence in a criminal trial. In principle, people whose constitutional rights have been violated have recourse to the US Courts.
Congress passes laws from time to time protecting constitutional rights. The most important of which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, and disability.
So, What Human Rights Are Missing?
There are some economic, social, and cultural rights that the UDHR guarantees but that are not provided for in the US Constitution.
Some rights, such as the right to education only apply in some state constitutions. Another right not afforded to all is an adequate standard of living (food, shelter, and medical care).
There are other social and cultural rights that the US does not regard as rights to be enjoyed by all. This stance paves the way for inequitable public policies. As long as they do not discriminate on the grounds of race, it’s possible for public policies to exclude people from being “eligible” for those rights.
This is the loophole that many LGBTQ+ movements and advocacy groups in the US are struggling to close. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have their work cut out for them.
LGBTQ+ Rights Are Human Rights
So the United Nations has been saying for years. Check out the brochure in the format of your choice here.
Pride celebrates the LGBTQ+ movement in all its diversity. It gives voice to the call to respect and protect LGBTQ+ rights.
Getting protections involves a more than marching in a parade. The UN’s revised edition (104 pages) of Born Free and Equal: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sex Characteristics published in 2019 details this thoroughly.
You might want to brush up on a few LGBTQ terms if you haven’t given this issue too much thought. It’s a step toward becoming an LGBTQ+ ally and helping to make human rights a reality for everyone LGBTQ+.
What has been achieved in the United States, and what still needs your dedicated support? Do you care about the inclusive assertion of human rights protection by law for all in the US? If you do, get hold of your representative and ask about LGBTQ+ advocacy.
LGBTQ+ Rights That Have Federal Protection
Same-sex sexual activity is legal, and the age of consent is the same as that for heterosexual sexual activity. Same-sex marriages are legal, and recognition of same-sex couples is law.
Same-sex couples may adopt step-children (the children of their partner). Likewise, joint adoption by same-sex couples is a federally protected right. MSMs (men who have sex with men) are allowed to donate blood, with the deferral period now shortened from 12 to 3 months.
LGTBQ+ Rights With Uneven Protection at State Level
Not all states have anti-discrimination laws relating to the provision of goods and services, or in areas other than employment. Federal laws on anti-bullying and anti-discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals whether at schools or colleges do not exist, and haven’t been implemented in many states. This has grave mental health consequences and needs to be addressed urgently.
There’s no legal recognition of gender diversity beyond the male/female binary at the federal level. Only 16 states offer the “X gender”, or non-binary marker on driver’s licenses and state ID cards.
LGTBQ+ Rights Without Federal or State Protection
That’s right, folks. There are no federal or state laws protecting your LGBTQ+ friends or relatives in the following situations:
There are no anti-discrimination laws in the area of health insurance, or similar laws applicable in hospitals. Transgender individuals cannot serve openly in the military. (Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals can.)
Intersex minors are not protected from invasive surgical procedures. And only about one-third of all US city and county jurisdictions have a ban on conversion therapy.
The Problem Quantified as a Principle
It’s clear a complex problem exists here. Approximately 9 million people in the USA find themselves subjected to discriminatory public policies that effectively deny them the human rights necessary to live in dignity, as is the case for people who are not LGBTQ+.
As Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says in the Foreword of Born Free and Equal, “human rights are for everyone, without exception: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people are just as entitled to protection, respect and fulfilment of their human rights as everyone else, including protection from discrimination, violence and torture.”
As a member of the human race, what will you do to ensure human rights for all? While you browse our site—where you’ll find articles on everything under the sun—we urge you to think about that.