The Chairman of a Republican House subcommittee on human rights is under fire for his claim that gay rights are not human rights.
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U.S. Congressman Chris Smith earlier this week announced gay rights are not human rights. "I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and I do not construe homosexual rights as human rights," Smith said. He also suggested that the Obama administration’s "views on LGBT rights affected or hindered our support for Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram."
The conservative Republican from New Jersey is now under attack by LGBT groups in his home state and nationally, by the Human Rights Campaign.
Heightening the impact of his anti-gay statement is that Rep. Smith is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, and made his comments at a meeting of that subcommittee, which is a part of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman Smith's remarks were made on Wednesday, perhaps ironically, during a hearing he chaired on Nigeria. That same day, Nigerian law enforcement arrested twelve men accused of holding a same-sex wedding.
“It’s simple: LGBT rights are human rights. It’s shocking that Smith — or anyone in his position — would make such close-minded comments to the contrary,” said Chris Hillmann, Co-Chair of the New Jersey Democratic LGBT Caucus. “For a person in his position to dehumanize such a large segment of our society and to suggest that members of the LGBT community are creating hurdles for U.S. diplomats is appalling on so many levels. Representative Smith should apologize for trying to pit some people’s human rights against those of others.”
Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global, called it "unconscionable" that "Representative Smith would not only object to the basic human rights of LGBT people, but argue that their rights should not be part of the administration’s policy in Nigeria." HRC has given Smith a rating of "0."
New Jersey LGBT activist Jay Lassiter framed the anti-gay Congressman's comments, noting that in "Chris Smith’s world we don’t construe gays rights with human rights, but we do conflate supporting gays with somehow enabling terrorism."
UPDATE - 1:50 PM EST: Rep. Smith received $10,000 from the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council in the 2014 election cycle.
Image via Flickr