The “Shrinking Influence” of Social Conservatives at the United Nations

The Alliance Defense Fund, the religious right legal group that claims to be “a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense and advocacy of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values,” is touting its new “special consultative status” at the United Nations. That status, the group’s statement maintains, “will allow ADF attorneys to attend and intervene at treaty and convention drafting meetings and help craft language that affirms religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.”

But the ADF is just one of many NGOs who are granted this status, which permits them, as Colum Lynch wrote at Foreign Policy’s U.N. blog Turtle Bay, “basically a grounds pass and access to open U.N. meetings.” Last week Lynch reported that the U.N. committee making these decisions granted such status to an LGBT group for the first time. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission finally prevailed in its three-year effort to obtain the status, a sign “of the shrinking influence of American social conservatives at the United Nations.”

Congressional conservatives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) — heroes of the religious right — had joined with Muslim countries in an effort to block the IGLHRC’s application. Lynch observed:

In previous years, American conservatives like Smith, backed by the White House and the Vatican, exercised enormous influence on social matters at the United Nations. But the letter from Smith and Franks appeared to have backfired, awakening congressional leadership that has grown decidedly more liberal during the past two years.

Smith and Franks, parrotting the rhetoric that the ADF has pressed both in courts of law and public opinion, had fretted they had “had serious questions regarding the IGLHRC’s support for the internationally recognized rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.” Because, for them and their allies in the religious right, LGBT rights mean restrictions on religious freedom — that’s been their principal, and losing, argument against everything from same-sex marriage to hate crimes legislation to the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. (The Family Research Council’s fundraising appeal this week claims that would be the “ENDA your religious liberty” and “the end of moral opposition to counterfeit marriage, homosexuals in the military, the indoctrination of school children, the rest of the homosexual rights agenda, and the lottery for trial lawyers.”)

When someone like Franks — who supports trumped-up “investigations” of American Muslims — makes common cause with Muslims to stifle the rights of LGBT people worldwide, it must means he’s running out of allies here at home.

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