The U.S. State Department’s delegation to the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) includes a representative from an anti-LGBTQ organization designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The State Department announced on Monday that Lisa Correnti, executive vice president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM), would act as a public delegate to the event. Grace Melton, the Heritage Foundation’s associate for social issues at the United Nations, will also be part of the delegation, which is being led by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told Rewire by phone Wednesday that C-FAM has been designated a hate group due to its extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. She pointed to its president’s opposition to including sexual orientation and gender identity in nondiscrimination law, as well as C-FAM’s support for draconian anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia.
“Our view is that if an organization thinks people should be thrown in jail for being gay, they’re clearly a hate group,” Beirich said. “This is not the kind of organization anybody should be taking advice from, nor given a prominent place like this with these heinous views.” C-FAM’s inclusion in the official U.S. delegation is “a travesty,” she continued.
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C-FAM was formed in 1997 “in order to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions,” according to the organization’s website. A 2011 investigative series published by Catholics for Choice reported that C-FAM was founded by anti-choice group Human Life International in hopes of gaining access to the UN.
Human Life International has “ties to violent anti-abortionists and extreme tactics [that] made it too controversial for the UN,” according to a 2014 post on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog.
“Its founder, Paul Marx, a DC-based Catholic priest, also had a history of claiming that the pro-choice movement was full of Jews, who in his words, were perpetrating another Holocaust,” the post said. Human Life International “was denied consultative status [to the UN] in 1993, so it set up C-FAM in 1997 as its UN lobbying arm, and the organization shifted its rhetoric to include vague terminology like ‘traditional values’ and ‘respect for sovereignty’ (useful for countries that employ repressive policies and wish to avoid scrutiny for human rights violations).”
C-Fam’s website includes attempts to undermine reproductive health care and family planning, including a 2014 petition encouraging the UN not to include “sexual and reproductive health and services” and “reproductive rights” in its post-2015 development agenda. “UN development policies should not endorse narrowly focused, controversial health policies that include abortion,” the petition said.
C-FAM President Austin Ruse was a member of President Trump’s anti-choice advisory council, an attempt during the election to woo voters who oppose abortion rights. Ruse attended a June meeting Trump held with leaders of the religious right. Following the meeting, Ruse suggested that it didn’t matter whether Trump—who has shifted his views on reproductive rights—really believed in the anti-choice cause.
“I’m indifferent to his sincerity,” Ruse said, according to Right Wing Watch. He added that “with regard to the life issues,” Trump would “let our side do exactly what we want to do.”
Jessica Stern, executive director of LGBTQ human rights organization OutRight Action International, noted in a statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ambassador Haley had “repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value” during their Senate confirmation hearings.
“The appointment of these organizations to the official US delegation undermines their positions,” she said. “I urge Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley to ensure that the US delegation maintains non-discrimination at the CSW in the face of obvious pressure from these newly appointed members of the delegation.”
“Many Americans have recently asked themselves, what does foreign policy matter to human rights at home? Now, we have our answer,” Stern said. “The same groups advocating against women’s rights, immigrants, Muslims, the Affordable Care Act, and LGBTI rights in the US are taking these views to the international stage. What the US says about women from around the world at the CSW will be a sign of things to come for American women, so it is essential that the US uphold American values and prevent all forms of discrimination at the CSW. Domestic and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin.”
The 61st session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women is scheduled for March 13-24 in New York. During the meeting, representatives “of the CSW’s 47 member governments convene to discuss ways to improve women’s lives at an event that also features the active participation of civil society representatives from around the world,” according to the State Department’s press release.
Public delegates to the CSW under the Obama administration included leaders from the International Women’s Health Coalition, the International Center for Research on Women, the Guttmacher Institute, and the Girl Scouts Council of the National Capital.