Austin, TX - Today, Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign with the support of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law submitted a Joint Allegation Letter [ www.equalitytexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/1.22.24_UN_Joint_Allegation_Letter.pdf ] to 17 independent experts, working groups, and special rapporteurs at the UN about the human rights crisis facing LGBTQIA+ Texans.
After a record-breaking legislative session in Texasover 140 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills filed [ www.equalitytexas.org/legislature/legislative-bill-tracker-2023/ ] , Texans are now struggling with a collection of new laws that eliminate medical freedom for trans youth, censor school libraries, ban trans athletes from participating in collegiate sports, end DEI practices at public universities, threaten drag performance, and undermine local government's already limited power. Together these laws are a systemic attack on the fundamental rights, dignities, and identities of LGBTQIA+ persons that opens the gates for discrimination by both public and private actors.
The state's discrimination has gone unchecked to the point that state officials are now policing other states with unconstitutional laws [ www.texastribune.org/2023/12/21/texas-attorney-general-trans-seattle-childrens/ ] . Just as state laws must defer to federal laws, so too the Constitution states that they mustyield to international treaties that have been ratified by the federal government.
The Joint Allegation Letter [ www.equalitytexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/1.22.24_UN_Joint_Allegation_Letter.pdf ] focuses on 7 bills that intentionally target or disproportionately impact LGBTQIA+ Texans: SB 14 (banning essential health care for trans youth), SB 17 (preventing public universities from maintaining DEI programs), SB 15 (preventing trans athletes from competing at the collegiate level), SB 763 (allowing chaplains to counsel school children, without any limit on proselytization or official training), SB 12 (banning public drag performances by labeling them as "sexually oriented"), HB 900 (enabling schools to ban LGBTQ+ books through a broad and vague definition of "sexual explicit" content), HB 2127 (encroaching on local power and threatening local non-discrimination ordinances). The letter spells out how these laws violate the U.S.'s obligation under the ICCPR and other human rights treaties. Specifically, they violate Texans' right to non-discrimination, right to privacy, right to health, right to freedom of expression, and right to education.
We fought in the legislature, we fought in the courts, we pushed back in local communities, and waited on the federal government to intervene. Now we are looking to the UN for leadership.
Statement from Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas:
"Failing to meet the minimum standards of international human rights treaties highlights the dire state of LGBTQIA+ rights in Texas. When state leaders fail us, we turn to the courts and the federal government, when they fail us we turn to the world. We cannot pretend to be a beacon of freedom when our state is slipping behind global human rights standards that have been in place for nearly 50 years. Our nation is only as strong as our weakest link, and right now, Texas is dragging our nation into a human rights crisis that will do more than damage our global reputation, it will harm our LGBTQIA+ neighbors at home."
Statement from Oni K. Blair, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas:
"As a former U.S. diplomat who currently leads the ACLU of Texas, I believe there is sufficient evidence for the United Nations to investigate the barrage of civil rights abuses in Texas, especially those targeting the LGBTQIA+ community. Doing so would bring international awareness, clear recommendations to rectify human rights issues, and undeniable pressure on U.S. public and private entities to ensure equality for LGBTQIA+ Texans in our state. We join a long line of advocates who have appealed to international organizations to hold U.S. institutions accountable for protecting the human rights of all people, no exceptions."
Statement from Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD:
"There is a human rights crisis in the state of Texas. As a result of the 2023 legislative session and other regressive efforts, LGBTQ citizens from across the Lone Star State are forced to openly wonder if they can access necessities such as health care, inclusive education, creative freedoms and more. The governor and other leaders are failing in their basic responsibilities to keep all Texans safe and free. Discrimination against LGBTQ Texans, especially in the transgender community, is of international concern. We stand with our partners in Texas and nationwide in ensuring our concerns are heard by the United Nations and to urge all voices to speak up and act to protect LGBTQ Texans from state-sponsored misinformation, discrimination and violence."
In a December 2023 report [ tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx ] on the state of human rights in the United States, the UN Human Rights Committee said:
"While noting the various legislative and policy initiatives adopted at the Federal level, the [Human Rights] Committee is concerned at the increase of state legislation that severely restricts the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as laws that, inter alia, ban and, in some instances, criminalize gender-affirming health care for transgender persons; forbid transgender individuals from using restrooms or from participating in school sports that corresponds with their gender identity; and limit discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity issues in schools."
Statement from the website [ tinyurl.com/mryvybc8 ] of the Independent Expert of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity:
"Discriminatory laws and socio-cultural norms continue to marginalize and exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse persons from education, health care, housing, employment and occupation, and other sectors. This environment of exclusion lends itself to violence and discrimination. Exclusion also leads to inequality of opportunity and of access to resources."
Statement from Melodía Gutiérez, Texas State Director at the Human Rights Campaign:
"By delivering relentless attacks on the rights, dignity, and very existence of LGBTQ+ people for years, lawmakers in Texas are sending a clear message that members of our community are neither welcome nor safe in their state. This is not only creating a dire situation for queer and transgender Texans, but it is also forcing countless families to uproot their lives and flee to other parts of the country so that their children can simply grow up safe as their true selves. This should never be the reality for anyone in the United States. More than ever before, we will continue to activate our coalition, challenge political extremism, and reinforce the fact that LGBTQ+ Americans are fighting back and not going anywhere."
Statement from Ariel Dulitzky, Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law:
"Today is a sad day for Texas. Our state has not satisfied its obligation to safeguard the fundamental pillars of freedom, equality, dignity, and rights enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We hope that with the United Nations' involvement, the rights of LGBTQI+ persons will be fully recognized, respected, and protected in Texas."