Warsaw, Poland – October 8, 2009–In Warsaw, Poland, during an important regional human rights conference, the U.S. State Department raised concerns for the first time over human rights violations directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Europe and North America. At the annual human rights meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Eastern and Western Europe and North America, the United States delegation is speaking out against violations of the rights to freedom of association, especially those targeting gay pride marches in Eastern Europe, while also noting patterns of extreme violence targeting LGBT citizens in the United States and Europe. This is the first time that the United States has used its position within the OSCE to address these alarming human rights trends.
The head of the U.S. delegation, Dr. Michael Haltzel, noted on Monday that “The extreme nature of the violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals has a chilling effect on these individuals speaking openly and advocating for their rights.” He also called on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to decriminalize homosexual conduct. (His full statement is available here.) Last week, Erika Schlager, another member of the U.S. delegation, noted that the Unites States is “concerned over the denial of permission for Pride events in other countries and the violence that has been directed at participants in marches that do occur.” (Her full statement is available here.)
Mark Bromley, Chair of the Council, also addressed the OSCE, noting that “Eleven years ago this week, a 21‐year‐old gay American named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming, where he was left to suffer alone on a cold country road for 18 hours before anyone found him. Mathew died five days later. Today, Matthew’s violent murder is recognized as a national tragedy; the fact that similar tragedies have been repeated so often across the entire OSCE region is a shameful reality.” The full statement, as delivered by Bromley on behalf of the Council and two European LGBT organizations, is available here.
The Council and the U.S. delegation both expressed hope that in the very near future the United States would adopt an expansion of the U.S. federal hate crime statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Commenting on the U.S. positions at the forum, Bromley noted that “U.S. leadership on human rights concerns at the OSCE lends significant diplomatic weight to those who are promoting an examination of the causes, consequences and trends in regional violence against LGBT individuals.” Bromley emphasized the significance of this effort, insisting that “such extreme violence against LGBT individuals means that the U.S. government should encourage all human rights institutions, including the OSCE, to address hate crimes against LGBT communities as a pressing concern.”