Leadership

ABA Says LGBT Discrimination Violates Human Rights

By / Aug 21, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The American Bar Association House of Delegates declared last week that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a human right to be free of discrimination. The group called for the repeal of discriminatory laws around the world.

Among the many resolutions passed by the House of Delegates at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Boston last week, number 114B may go down as the most significant.

The ABA has said to the world that it is time to work to end discrimination against LGBT people.

The ABA delegates unanimously passed the 20-line resolution [PDF] stating that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have a human right to be free from discrimination, threats, and violence based on their LGBT status.” The resolution called on the governments of countries where such discriminatory laws exist to repeal them.

“I am proud that the American Bar Association has denounced anti-gay laws as human rights violations,” ABA President William C. Hubbard said in a statement to Associations Now. “The ABA has said to the world that it is time to work to end discrimination against LGBT people and to ensure that the rights of LGBT people receive equal protection under the law.”

The ABA, which represents more than 400,000 lawyers, called on other bar associations and attorneys in jurisdictions where discriminatory laws exist to work to defend the members of the LGBT community. And it urged the federal government, “through bilateral and multilateral channels, to work to end discrimination against LGBT people and to endure that the rights of LGBT people receive equal protection under the law.”

Resolution 114B is the most recent in a series of ABA measures supporting LGBT rights. At its 2013 annual meeting, the House of Delegates passed a resolution that made it harder for criminal defense lawyers to use the so-called LGBT panic defense, which argued that a crime victim’s sexual orientation should mitigate the defendant’s guilt; and, in 2011, the delegates adopted an anti-bullying resolution that included sexual orientation among characteristics that should be protected.

In 2007, ABA launched the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which, according to its website, leads the association’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and full and equal participation by LGBT people in the association, the legal profession, and society.

ABA’s work in the LGBT community was recognized by the National LGBT Bar Association last month when James Silkenat, Hubbard’s predecessor, received an Allies for Justice Award.

“Just as the law has evolved and progressed toward more inclusion and greater equality, the ABA … continues to be a model for LGBT inclusiveness and diversity,” D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar, said in a statement.

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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