- July 24 - The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today urged the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee to approve a women's rights treaty signed by President Jimmy
Carter in 1980 and stalled in the U.S. Senate for the past 22 years, and to allow
the full Senate to vote on whether or not to ratify the treaty. The Senate Foreign
Relations Committee vote is slated for Thursday morning, July 25. Nearly 170 United
Nations member states, including Saudi Arabia, have ratified the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The U.S.
is among a handful of countries--including alleged sponsors of terrorism Iran,
Syria, Somalia and Sudan--that have refused to ratify CEDAW.
"Basic equality for women should
be a no-brainer," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force. "Yet the anti-gay right wing in America has blocked this treaty
for nearly a quarter century. If President and Laura Bush are serious about supporting
the rights of women in Afghanistan and other countries, they should urge their
Republican colleagues in the Senate to ratify CEDAW once and for all."
CEDAW has languished in the U.S.
Senate due to the opposition of right-wing groups and politicians, led by Senator
Jesse Helms (R-NC). Although CEDAW merely mandates basic equality such as the
right to own property, get an education, and enter into marriage on an equal basis,
U.S.-based conservative groups have resisted its ratification by the Senate. The
Family Research Council alleges that CEDAW "takes aim at family structure and
morality," while Concerned Women for America calls CEDAW "the Equal Rights Amendment
on steroids," and warns that it promotes "lesbianism" and "homosexual rights."
"That CEDAW remains controversial is a stark indication of the true nature of
conservative forces here at home," Jean said.
The U.S. Constitution requires
that the Senate ratify treaties signed by the President, but since Carter signed
CEDAW it has languished in the U.S. Senate due to Helms's opposition and that
of the right wing. Under new leadership, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
finally held hearings on CEDAW June 13th of this year. In response, right-wing
groups have pressured the Senate, Secretary of state Colin Powell, and President
Bush to oppose the treaty. If approved by the Foreign Relations Committee July
25th, the treaty goes to the full Senate for approval, where it must receive a
2/3 vote to be ratified. The Task Force has prepared an issue paper on CEDAW and
the U.S. right-wing's promotion of a reactionary agenda at the United Nations,
available for download at http://www.ngltf.org/downloads/cedaw.pdf
"The reality is that the right wing
fears that these treaties will undermine their own rigid concepts of the family
and religion," Jean said. "The right wing has used this same anti-woman, anti-gay
rhetoric to oppose reproductive freedom and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual
and transgender (GLBT) people, both here in the U.S. and abroad."
"Those who support equal rights
and opportunities for women should contact the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
their two U.S. Senators, and President Bush and urge them to ratify this treaty
that promotes equal rights for women around the world," Jean continued. "This
position is not only consistent with the goals expressed by the President and
First Lady Laura Bush since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan; it's truly
the only moral position that the U.S. can take."
Contact information for:
Joseph Biden (D), Chair of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Jesse Helms (R), Ranking Member
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. Capitol Switchboard
Call to contact BOTH of your two U.S. Senators: 202-224-3121
Secretary of State Colin Powell