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JULY 24, 2002
2:58 PM
CONTACT:  National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
NGLTF Communications Department
Senate Should Pass Women's Rights Treaty After 22 Year Delay, Says National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
WASHINGTON - 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

"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
Phone: 202-224-5042
Fax: 202-224-0139

Jesse Helms (R), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Phone: 202-224-6342
Fax 202-228-1339

U.S. Capitol Switchboard
Call to contact BOTH of your two U.S. Senators: 202-224-3121

President Bush
Phone: 202-456-1111
Fax: 202-456-2461

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Phone: 202-647-4000
Fax: 202-261-8577
E-mail: Secretary@state.go


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