Five weeks ago today, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were subjected to homophobia and religious and cultural extremism, thanks to a United Nations vote that removed â€œsexual orientationâ€ from an ongoing resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. Yes, the UN General Assembly on November 16 had in fact voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.
Today, after a reported gas-leak forced evacuation of the building, a vote to restore the term “sexual orientation” to the UN General Assembly resolution on extra judicial executions is taking place, with U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice leading the effort.
Today, the UN voted in favor of restoring “sexual orientation” to the UN General Assembly resolution on extra judicial executions, by a margin of 109-41, with 35 abstentions.
The UN General Assembly’s Third CommitteeÂ vote to remove the term “sexual orientation” from a draft resolution on extrajudicial killings last month won by a slimÂ seven vote margin, 79 to 70, (17 abstentions and 26 absent,) butÂ supportÂ for the final version of the resolution won with a lopsided victoryÂ at 165 votes in support and 10 absentions, one of which included the United States.
South African political leaders wielding religious fundamentalism, aided by Mormon and Christian Fundamentalists, including “The Family,” were behind the UN Vote allowing gays to be executed without cause.
“We are going to fight to restore the reference to sexual orientation,” Ambassador Rice said. Â “We’re going to stand firm on this basic principle. Â And we intend to win.”
RiceÂ delivered aÂ passionate statement about the UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote that stripped out “sexual orientation” for the first time in 10 years, toÂ a UN LGBTÂ groupÂ on Dec. 10, commemoratingÂ InternationalÂ Human Rights Day.
“Here at the United Nations, like many of you, I was incensed by the recent vote in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which eliminated any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderÂ individuals from a resolution condemning extrajudicial killing of vulnerable people around the world.Â We fought hard for that reference whenÂ it came to the Committee vote, and we lost.Â But we’re not done yet.Â The resolution now goes to the full General Assembly.Â For countries that voted in the Commitee to keep the reference to sexual orientation, we thank you.Â For countries that haven’t yet done so, we urge you to join us. And for countries that have supported this reference in the past but charged course thisÂ year, we urge you to stand Â again with us and with all vulnerable people around the world at risk of violence.”
Last month,Â U.K. gay rights and human rights campaignerÂ Peter TatchellÂ called itÂ â€œa shameful day in United Nations history.”
A winning outcome was not assured, according to Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality.Â BromleyÂ also had saidÂ the “vote count is looking better, but it is going to be very, very, very close.”
During today’s vote, Belgium, representing the European Union said the restoration “significantly improves” the text of the resolution.Â The Nordic countries representative said they were “deeply disappointed” by the removal of the term “sexual orientation,” and added, “No one should be killed because of their sexual orientation.” Canada added a request to include “gender identity” to the text. Argentina and Mexico spoke in support of adding the term back into the resolution also, saying, “We’re not demanding that this group enjoy greater protections,” but, “every year there are people executed for reasons of their sexual orientation.”
Suggesting LGBT peoples are weak and invited discrimination, the United Arab Emirates spoke at length, and said it “rejects firmly” the “controversial” statement that has “no legal foundation.”
The African Group representative said they were “gravely alarmed” with the “undefined notion of sexual orientation,” and called the attempt to restore the term a “systematic attempt to create new rights,” and Â said it would “jeopardize the entire human rights framework… to achieve narrow political gain.”
In a major switch, South Africa voted for the resolution, after having voted to remove sexual orientation from the resolution last month. Rowanda also spoke very eloquently. But Zimbabwe, calling the text “adventurism,” also likened homosexuality to bestiality and said “individual proclivities should be just that.”
A significant effort had been launched by the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office LGBT Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity project, who hosted its second UN consultation meeting on Dec. 13, in concert with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and the Union Theological Seminary and 40 leaders of faith, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and LGBT activists to discuss the UNGA vote and the increasingly hostile environment for LGBT people in Eastern Africa.
According to Ryan Ubuntu Olson, the Unitarian’s LGBT-SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) director, there has been a lot of concern at the UN about how a negative vote by the UNGAÂ thatÂ would not restore “sexual orientation” to the resolution would affect other efforts to advance LGBT rights at the UN.
“Many people are worried and it is not clear how the votes are going to go,” Olson said.
In response andÂ support of Ambassador Rice’s efforts, the UN Faith Coalition for LGBTÂ Human RightsÂ issued a resolution on Dec. 18th which “fully affirms and supports the proposed actions of Ambassador Rice … to restore the prohibition of the violent targeting and extrajudicial killing of people who are vulnerable because of their sexual orientation.” Â The resolution also urges UN member states to abstain from the vote to restore “sexual orientation” if they can not support it.
ARC International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission have alsoÂ been organizing NGO activists who have been working the vote to restore “sexual orientation” to the UNGA resolution.Â For more information on the UN vote and to learn more about organizing for UN LGBT relatedÂ issues go to the ARC website.
Editor’s note: Tomorrow we will post the audio of the vote. Stay tuned!
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs atColumbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is aÂ Harriman Instituteaffiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout
One week after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled frozen human embryos are “children,” causing several medical institutions to pause their in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs, Alabama and the GOP have seen tremendous nationwide anger, upset, and confusion from the left and the right over the decision, the Christian nationalist chief judge, and the Republican Party that set this in motion.
Now, GOP lawmakers and political groups are trying to regain ground after some Republicans quickly embraced the decision that, as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predicted Tuesday, would cause “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”
“As a reminder,” Jean-Pierre added, “this is the same state whose attorney general threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”
President Joe Biden condemned the Alabama ruling: “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.”
But U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) cheered his state’s Supreme Court, while appearing to not fully grasp what IVF is.
“I was all for it,” he said of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, calling young people “our number one commodity.”
But when pressed, Tuberville declared, “I’d have to look at the entire bill, how it’s written, I have not seen it,” referring not to legislation but the ruling.
And when told that women will now not be able to have IVF treatments, Tuberville repeatedly replied it was “unfortunate.”
“Oh…my…God.” Morning Joe hosts gobsmacked by clueless Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville twisting himself into knots. (Video: MSNBC) pic.twitter.com/huTuksbnuV
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) February 23, 2024
On Thursday night, speaking to a group of religious broadcasters, Donald Trump denounced the Alabama ruling and vowed to protect IVF. On Friday, the beleaguered Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo directing Republicans to defend IVF. Also Friday, the Attorney General for the state of Alabama, mentioned earlier by the White House Press Secretary, effectively suggested he would ignore the state supreme court’s ruling, promising to not prosecute IVF families, as ABC News reported.
But Democrats are making clear that despite whatever claims or promises Republicans make, the IVF ruling is the direction conservatives are taking the Republican Party.
“First Republicans banned abortions so women couldn’t terminate a pregnancy. Now they are coming for IVF so women can’t begin a pregnancy. The GOP agenda is about one thing: government control of women,” observed U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) (photo).
CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox reports a new NRSC memo “instructs [GOP] candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF.”
Just hours later, Sen. Murphy responded, saying, “umm the chairman of the NRSC sponsored the bill to ban IVF.”
He added, “newsflash: no matter what they tell their candidates to pretend, when they get power they use it to control women.”
The NRSC’s goal is to help get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. It is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a MAGA Republican and member of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus.
As Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias notes, Senator Daines is an original co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act.
Steve Daines, who is advising GOP candidates to say they don’t want to ban IVF, co-sponsored an IVF ban. pic.twitter.com/r4jpD32ViA
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 23, 2024
The Center for American Progress’ Colin Seeberger adds, Daines “quite literally has been a longtime co-sponsor of the Lifetime at Conception Act, which would establish legal protections for the unborn just as the Alabama Supreme Court ordered and has led to the suspension of fertility care across AL.”
Meanwhile, Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz notes that the “text of GOP‘s most recent platform claims that ‘the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed’ and calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions — and jeopardize IVF — by granting 14th Amendment rights to fetuses.”
Indeed, as The New York Times reported, far-right Christian conservative Tony Perkins, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ extremist group Family Research Council, called the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a “beautiful defense of life and the Alabama Constitution.”
Friday afternoon Donald Trump followed up his vow to protect IVF with a social media post that claims in part, “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America. Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”
Former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded, asking: “Why would anyone believe this? In 2016, Trump pledged no cuts to Medicaid and then spent four years trying to gut the program.”
And as Axios reports, “House Democrats’ main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.”
“Trump’s call came a day after President Biden’s re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Axios adds. “House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.”
In new memo obtained by CNN, NRSC instructs its candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF pic.twitter.com/kZR5LqRt5p
— Lauren Fox (@FoxReports) February 23, 2024
See the social media posts and video above or at this link.
Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report
The re-arrest of Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who allegedly may have provided House Republicans with Kremlin propaganda that was the basis for their efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and attack his son Hunter, raised some eyebrows on Thursday.
Smirnov, once considered House Republicans’ Jim Comer and Jim Jordan’s star witness, was re-arrested even after a magistrate judge ordered him released, and at his attorneys’ offices, raising eyebrows from even national security experts, insisting there had better be a good reason for it.
Now, according to a noted legal expert, it appears there was.
“A California judge seems to be suggesting [Smirnov’s] lawyers are complicit in his efforts to flee, in a remarkable line ordering detention for the FBI source whose lies propelled Biden impeachment efforts,” writes professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney.
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his order wrote on Thursday: “It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”
After detailing Smirnov’s arrest and release, Judge Wright ordered his re-arrest, adding: “The U.S. Marshal Service is advised there is to be no deviation from this Order.”
“They did not respond to questions about the language in the judge’s order suggesting a ‘likely’ aim to ‘facilitate’ their client ‘absconding from the United States.'”
Vaccine-Laced Lettuce and Tomatoes? Tennessee GOP Lawmaker Worried
A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker says he’s worried Tennesseans might overdose on vaccines if they eat too many tomatoes.
State Rep. Scott Cepicky claims vaccines can already be added to foods like lettuce and tomatoes, and to tobacco products, so he has filed legislation to require grocery store items containing vaccines to be labeled.
“University of California Riverside has already perfected the ability to put human vaccines into our lettuce right now,” Rep. Cepicky told his fellow lawmakers Wednesday while discussing his legislation. “Also, tomatoes, has the ability to do that also per UC Berkeley. And then big tobacco, RJ Reynolds and stuff has perfected the ability to put a human vaccine in tobacco products.”
Cepicky, who has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), warned, “there is no law, deeming those that when you go into a grocery store, you should know as a consumer, this head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. The head of lettuce right next week could contain a vaccine in it. All we’re saying is if it does have the vaccine in it, make sure it’s listed as a pharmaceutical so people can get the proper dosage.”
Facing some pushback from Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Cepicky went on to say, “This is more of a consumer protection bill right here, is to make sure that if you’re going in to buy tomatoes, and there’s a polio vaccine in there, that you are aware of what you’re buying has a polio vaccine. The problem you have is if it’s not treated as a pharmaceutical, being the size and difference between you and me, how many tomatoes do I have to eat to get the proper dosage versus how many tomatoes that you have to eat? And if you eat too many do you get a overdose?”
Asked if his legislation was necessity, Cepicky added, “Well, if you’d have a child that is allergic to a certain vaccine, and it’s not disclosed, when you go to buy that, that vegetable, whatever it is, and your child dies from that, I would think that having place is going to make sure that that is treated as a pharmaceutical so that the consumers know exactly what they’re buying.”
Anti-vaxers gained a foothold during the COVID pandemic, spreading false claims about vaccines. Last year the fact-checking website Snopes deemed it “false” that “mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines has entered the food supply via genetically modified plants bred to contain it or through the consumption of vaccinated livestock.”
“Claims regarding COVID-19 vaccines ‘in your salad‘ have persisted on the internet and recirculated due to misreadings or misinterpretations of several press releases or scientific research,” Snopes added, “Mike Flynn, during a September 2021 podcast appearance, referenced this research, describing it as ‘putting the vaccine in salad dressing.'”
Flynn, the former Trump U.S. national security advisor, is a far-right Christian nationalist and Trump MAGA activist.
Tennessee lawmakers voted to move Rep. Capicky’s forward.
Watch Rep. Capicky’s remarks below or at this link.
Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) defends his bill to label vaccines (?) in food:
“When you go into a grocery store, you should know … This head of lettuce is a head of lettuce, the head of lettuce right next to it could include a vaccine in it.” pic.twitter.com/Q7fd33H05D
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) February 22, 2024
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