General discussionWorking group discussion on definitional parameters of the intersection of gender and racial discrimination; the disadvantages, obstacles and difficulties women face in the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights as a result of the intersection of racial and sex discrimination both in the public and private domain; and measures to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and their specific effects on women and girls, and provision of remedies and redress. Presentation of reports from working groups Adoption of the report of the meeting Closing of the Expert Group Meeting At its opening session, the meeting elected the following officers: Darling United States of America Vice-chairperson: Ruth Manorama India Rapporteur:
All we want is equality.
Despite this progress, federal law does not expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in fields like employment, housing, and access to services, and fewer than half of the states offer explicit protections for LGBT people at the state level.
Without these protections, LGBT people across the United States lack clear recourse and redress when they are fired, evicted, or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Against this backdrop of legal vulnerability, lawmakers who oppose marriage for same-sex couples and recent moves to advance transgender equality have led an anti-LGBT charge, pushing for, and often succeeding in getting, new laws that carve out religious exemptions for individuals who claim that compliance with particular laws interferes with their religious or moral beliefs.
While LGBT equality is not the only area where exemptions have been debated—particularly as lawmakers have sought to substantially broaden exemptions related to sexual and reproductive healthcare—this report specifically examines a worrying wave of exemptions being introduced to blunt the recognition of LGBT rights across the United States.
Expand Share The freedom of religion, as well as nondiscrimination, is a significant rights issue, and it is important that governments do not unnecessarily burden the exercise of religious conscience.
This is especially important to minority religious groups, whose practices are all too easily trampled on by laws and policies enacted by majorities.
But when exemptions to laws to accommodate religious beliefs or practices impinge on the rights of others or core societal values like nondiscrimination, lawmakers should proceed with caution.
Proponents of these laws argue that they properly balance religious freedom with the rights of LGBT individuals. In fact, with few exceptions, the laws as drafted create blanket exemptions for religious believers to discriminate with no consideration of or even mechanism for consideration of the harms and burdens on others.
Because of their narrow focus on the objector, the laws provide little protection for the rights, well-being, or dignity of those who are turned away. Statements made by legislative supporters of the laws, and in some cases the content of the laws themselves, moreover, make clear that they aim to push back against recent gains toward LGBT equality and to dilute the rights of LGBT people to secure protection from invidious discrimination.
They send a signal that the state governments enacting them accept and even embrace the dangerous and harmful notion that discrimination against LGBT people is a legitimate demand of both conscience and religion.
In recent years and mostly sincewhen the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, numerous states have considered and at least eight US states have enacted new laws that permit people to infringe on the rights of LGBT individuals and their families to the extent they believe that discriminating against them is necessary to uphold their own religious or moral beliefs.
Inlawmakers in at least six other states will consider similar legislation. These laws and bills vary in scope. As has been widely publicized, some would permit people to refuse to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies or to provide goods and services related to such weddings.
Others, less widely publicized, would permit child welfare agencies, physical and mental health providers, businesses that serve the public, and other actors to refuse service to LGBT people and other groups.
Such legislation immediately endangers LGBT rights. By allowing people to elevate their prejudices above fairness and equality, it also threatens the broader principle that people should not be refused goods and services solely because of who they are.
Together, the failure of most states to enact nondiscrimination protections and the growing number of religious exemption laws leave many LGBT people with little recourse when they encounter discrimination.
While these exemptions are almost always couched in the language of religious freedom or religious liberty, they directly and indirectly harm LGBT people in a variety of ways. Some laws enable and embolden businesses and service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people, compelling LGBT people to invest additional time, money, and energy to find willing providers; others simply give up on obtaining the goods or services they need.
More insidiously, they give LGBT people reason to expect discrimination before it even occurs, and to take extra precautions or avoid scenarios where they might face hostility out of self-preservation. Such laws also threaten the basic dignity of LGBT people, sending a clear message that their rights and well-being are not valued and are contingent on the goodwill of others.
Our interviewees explained that, by enacting religious exemptions to blunt the advancement of LGBT equality, lawmakers sent a powerful signal that they were unequal or unvalued in their community.
Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, a lesbian pastor in Mississippi, described that harm in these words: And after a while, that begins to tear a person down, to hurt them emotionally and spiritually.
Rejection is hard for everyone, and we get it over and over. From August to Januaryresearchers interviewed LGBT people, service providers, and advocates, primarily in states that have enacted religious exemptions in recent years, about the discrimination that LGBT people have faced because of an absence of comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation and the passage of legislation that provides for exemptions based on religious or moral beliefs.
The results of this research indicate that the laws already enacted in eight states and the bills still under consideration in many more do not strike a proper balance between the freedom of religion and the equal rights of LGBT people under the law.
And in fact, few if any of these laws even represent a serious attempt to do that. Lawmakers at the federal, state, and local level should work to ensure that LGBT people are protected from discrimination in employment, education, housing, healthcare, adoption and foster care, and public accommodations, and should repeal religious exemption laws that give government support to those who would discriminate based on their religious or moral beliefs.
Methodology Human Rights Watch conducted the research for this report between August and January To identify interviewees, researchers conducted outreach through national and state LGBT groups, legal advocates, and service providers who circulated information about the project to their networks.
The outreach focused on eight states where statewide exemptions affecting LGBT people had been legislatively enacted at the time the research began: Researchers conducted a total of interviews, including 30 individuals who were affected by discrimination and 82 advocates and providers working with affected individuals.The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
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