The US has aggressively twisted arms and made threats on various LGBT votes in the UN. One Jamaican diplomat told me her countrymen are aggressively opposed to homosexuality–did you know that many of those happy and free-wheeling reggae songs have explicit anti-homosexual lyrics? British censors recently discovered this and have been banning reggae bands from performing. The US successfully forced the Jamaican government to abstain on LGBT votes in the General Assembly.
Hillary Clinton is credited with coining the phrase “human rights are women’s rights–and women’s rights are human rights” at the Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995. What sounds like an underscoring of the universality of human rights is just the opposite: her formulation balkanizes them. She resurrected the formulation for the LGBT debate: “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
This formulation is a major debasement of the human rights project as it ghettoizes human rights. If women and gays have human rights that the rest of us do not possess, then human rights lose their indivisibility and their universality.
International law’s subject is universal human rights–a subject broad enough that it is both illogical and unfair to supplement it with rights for specific categories of human beings. The dignity of homosexual and heterosexual persons alike is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its implementing covenants. Homosexual persons, just like heterosexual persons, are also covered by the treaties on torture, genocide, and all the rest. What is needed is enforcement of existing treaties.
One of the great achievements of the largely sullied twentieth century is the development of the universal human rights regime. However, an already difficult regime teeters under the weight of new ideologies, and as it teeters, it endangers not only gays and lesbians but everyone.
This article is reprinted with kind permission from Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, an online publication of the Witherspoon Institute that seeks to enhance the public understanding of the moral foundations of free societies by making the scholarship of the fellows and affiliated scholars of the Institute available and accessible to a general audience.