US Backing for ‘Nontraditional’ Families at UN Conference Raises Eyebrows

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By Fred Lucas, Daily Signal,

The Trump administration’s stance on United Nations social policy so far is strikingly similar to the Obama administration’s, a leading conservative group that defends religious freedom says.

Alliance Defending Freedom International, the global wing of the U.S.-based Christian legal aid group, faults the administration specifically for voting against a “Protection of the Family” resolution during a June meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The U.S. vote was determined in part because the resolution didn’t directly address same-sex couples and other nontraditional families.

“It is disappointing that the United States is continuing to champion a controversial agenda with regard to the family at the U.N.,” Rubén Navarro, senior U.N. counsel in Geneva for ADF International, told The Daily Signal in an email statement Thursday.

The State Department contends it is committed to protecting all vulnerable groups, including those who are gay or transgender, and was concerned that the U.N. resolution recognized the family unit at the expense of individual rights.

However, one conservative noted that President Donald Trump has yet to appoint a new ambassador in Geneva, a post now held on an interim basis by a career diplomat.

The U.S. asserted at the Human Rights Council gathering that the “United Nations must consider all types of loving families,” including same-sex couples.

ADF International’s Navarro said:

The U.S. refused to support the resolution on the protection of the family simply because it did not include explicit support for households headed by same-sex couples. In doing so, it has missed an invaluable opportunity to speak up for the family on the international stage, and the new government should assess whether it wants to continue with the previous administration’s position on this matter.

That’s not how the U.S. team saw it.

“The United States is disappointed to have to vote against the resolution before us today,” Jason Mack, a career diplomat and U.S. representative to the Human Rights Council, said in a written explanation of the June 22 vote, adding:

We agree with the sentiment in the resolution that recognizes the important role that families play in society. We also appreciate the emphasis on the human rights of older persons in this resolution. However, the United States believes that discussions at the United Nations must consider all types of loving families that exist today, be those families headed by one mother and father, a single parent, a same-sex couple, grandparents, or the many other family structures that provide essential support for raising children and assisting in caring for the elderly. … Human rights belong to individuals, not the family unit.

US Joins 11 Dissenters

The resolution called for the high commissioner of the U.N. Human Rights Council to study ways to preserve the family as a building block of society. While it didn’t specifically define marriage as between a man and a woman, in previous years the resolution prompted concern that it left out others.

The resolution passed, 30-12. Voting with the United States against it were Albania, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

No hierarchy exists for U.S. representatives to the United Nations. Although U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is the public face of the U.S. interaction with the world body, her job is working at U.N. headquarters in New York with the General Assembly, Security Council, and other structures.

Haley, who was the Republican governor of South Carolina when Trump tapped her as ambassador to the United Nations, does not have control over U.S. representatives to U.N. bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Those representatives report back to the State Department.

The U.S. mission to the U.N. Human Rights Council is run on an interim basis by Theodore Allegra, deputy chief of mission in Geneva since August 2015. He became interim chargé d’affaires in January 2017 as the Trump administration took over from the Obama administration.

The U.S. move on the resolution was not a big surprise for two reasons, said Brett Schaefer, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation who studies and writes about the United Nations.

“First, the president himself is a supporter of gay marriage and has a history of distance from social conservatives on that issue,” Schaefer told The Daily Signal, referring to Trump.

“Secondly, the State Department is not fully staffed. There is no ambassador in Geneva,” Schaefer said. “A failure from this administration to get political appointees confirmed, or in some cases even nominated, means there is not the normal political guidance for the civil service employees.”

‘Protecting Vulnerable Groups’

A State Department official in Washington who requested not to be named said, “Our policy has not changed.”

“Protecting the human rights of vulnerable groups including LGBTI persons is a core component of U.S. foreign policy,” the State Department official told The Daily Signal, using an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex individuals. “In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal.”

This does “not necessarily” mean the United States will vote against future resolutions that don’t protect those individuals, the official said.

“Resolutions like the one presented fail to give sufficient weight to the importance of ensuring that the human rights of all individuals in all families are supported and protected,” the State Department official said.

Separately, the U.S. supported but said “we must disassociate” from some language in another resolution on violence against women, which also supported abortion.

Mack, the U.S. representative, wrote:

As has been made clear over many years, there was international consensus that these documents do not create new international rights, including any ‘right’ to abortion. The United States fully supports the principle of voluntary choice regarding maternal and child health and family planning. We do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance.

Schaefer said the State Department had political guidance on this because of what is known as the Mexico City policy, which Trump signed to prohibit U.S. taxpayer funding for abortions abroad—reversing President Barack Obama’s stand.