WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, delivered the following statement in recognition of the to recognize the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), observed on May 17, 2020:
“Mr. President, today I rise to mark the start of LGBT Pride Month with reflections on the recent International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). For more than 50 years, Pride Month has been a reminder that – despite recent progress – every day millions of people around the world face social stigmatization, legal prosecution, and even violence based on their sexual orientation or because of their gender identity. COVID-19 is necessitating adjustments to how this month is celebrated, with organizers moving large-scale parades from the streets of towns and cities to the internet, where a 24-hour online Global Pride celebration is planned for later this month.
“Two short weeks ago, was the annual commemoration of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). Started on May 17, 2004, IDAHOBIT was established by LGBTQ activists in 2004 to commemorate the World Health Organization’s historic decision in 1990 to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases. As in the United States, despite the progress we have made since 1990, around the world homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia continue to flourish in many parts of the world.
“The theme of this year’s International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was “Breaking the Silence.” Millions of LGBTQ individuals around the world continue to be forced to hide their identities because of who they are or whom they love. They struggle to achieve the most basic of human rights, let alone respect and visibility. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) lists 70 countries in which same-sex activities are outlawed, and penalties range from eight years’ imprisonment to the death penalty. Even in countries that do not criminalize homosexuality, many still have laws on the books that make living openly next to impossible. Only five countries – of which the United States is not one – ban the damaging practice of conversion therapy.
“This type of discrimination has only been compounded by the global outbreak of COVID-19. In addition to the widespread health and economic hardship that this pandemic is creating, it is producing new risks and forms of persecution for the LGBTQ community.
“In Uganda, security forces stormed an LGBTQ shelter, binding the occupants’ hands with rope before marching them to a nearby police station on charges of disobeying social distancing rules. In Latin America, transgender, non-binary, and queer people who present as gender-nonconforming are being detained or fined for going to the grocery store on days designated by the government as “men-only” or “women-only.” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has used the pandemic as an excuse to move legislation that will ban the legal recognition of transgender citizens. Meanwhile, in South Korea, there is a disturbing rise in online hate speech blaming the LGBTQ community for spreading the coronavirus. And a number of religious leaders around the world have cruelly attributed the spread of COVID-19 to divine retribution for recognition of same-sex marriages.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually fade, but the abuse of LGBTQ people will continue unless we come together as a global community to put an end to it. Historically, the United States has been a strong international leader on issues of human rights like this one. However, the current Administration’s neglect of LGBTQ rights, both at home and abroad, has hurt our credibility and diminished our power to make positive change.
“Within the United States, the Trump administration has issued rules sanctioning employment, housing, medical, and other forms of discrimination based on gender identity. It has also repeatedly used religious liberty as a shield to enable discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And on a global scale, the Administration has attempted to undermine internationally recognized definitions of human rights through the U.S. State Department’s Commission on Inalienable Rights and turned a blind eye to the persecution of LGBTQ people in other countries. It is said that you can measure the strength of a democracy by the rights it affords to marginalized communities – these actions do not reflect the strong democracy that we strive to be.
“Looking at the state of the world today, it is clear that we need more champions for LGBTQ rights on the international stage. We need more leaders to break the silence and speak up for everyone’s right to live truly as themselves. This Pride Month, I am hopeful that the United States will once again be one of those voices. For my part, I will keep fighting to protect LGBTQ rights at home and around the globe, so that all people can pursue happiness and love without fear.”
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