Strange Bedfellows

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS…. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has sought accreditation from the United Nations for several years, in the hopes that it would be among the many non-governmental organizations to have input into the institution’s debates. The Obama administration supports the IGLHRC’s application, and a U.N. committee is expected to vote on the respected international gay rights group’s application next week.

This has sent some conservative Republican lawmakers scrambling to undermine the position of the United States. Specifically, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) have sent letters to foreign delegations, hoping to find international allies to oppose next week’s vote, arguing that advocacy of gay rights may ultimately undermine human rights. Rachel Slajda reported yesterday:

Smith is the Republican congressional representative to the U.N. and Franks leads an international religious freedom caucus in the House.

They wrote the letter to representatives from many of the other countries on the Economic and Social Council.

Countries on the council include places where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment, whipping, or death: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Egypt and Pakistan are the most famously harsh countries. Homosexuality is also illegal in Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mauritius, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Zambia.

IGLHRC’s mission is focused on eliminating such laws, and they advocate against state-sanctioned violence based on sexual orientation.

What’s interesting to me is that conservative Republican lawmakers in the U.S. hope to find allies in foreign governments that conservative Republican lawmakers would generally disapprove of.

This isn’t uncommon. During the Bush/Cheney era, when conservatives pursued their agenda at the United Nations, they often did so by teaming up with Islamic theocracies. While U.S. allies took progressive approaches to forge international consensus on issues ranging from children’s health to women’s rights and global family planning, conservatives partnered with Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Sudan — because those were the countries most inclined to agree with the Republican line on social issues.

Now, with the Obama administration moving in the opposite direction, and working with our traditional allies on progressive goals, U.S. lawmakers on the right have resorted to reaching out to countries like Saudi Arabia on their own.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.