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Chairs Raskin and Castro Raise Concerns that Upcoming Report by State Department’s “Unalienable Rights” Commission Will Harm Global Human Rights

June 9, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties within the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations within the Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights to express serious misgivings about reports that the Commission may change the way the United States upholds human rights around the world.  

“We are aware that the Commission’s hearings recently ended, and that the Commission is reportedly preparing its final report,” the Chairs wrote.  “We are concerned that this report will undermine our nation’s ability to lead on critical issues of universal human rights, including reproductive freedom and protections for millions of people globally in the LGBTQ community.”   

The Commission’s focus on “natural law” has been interpreted by some advocacy groups and Department staff alike as an attempt by the Trump Administration to redefine human rights based on religious objections to reproductive freedom and protections for members of the LGBTQ community. 

Reports indicate that Robert George, who has cited his conception of “natural law” to argue against homosexuality and reproductive freedom, played a prominent role in the Commission.  Commission members reportedly used hearings to “demonstrate skepticism toward human rights treaties and institutions,” which threatens to undermine the responsibility of the United States to comply with international human rights treaties.

In addition, it appears that the creation and operation of the Commission may have violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Last year, the Foreign Affairs Committee launched an investigation into the Commission, but has yet to receive an adequate response from the State Department.

The Subcommittees request a briefing by June 26, 2020 with the State Department on the Commission, as well as documents and information regarding its creation and activities by June 23, 2020.

Click here to read today’s letter.

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