Falling Short of Human Rights: Joint Allegation Letter Challenges Texas’ Treatment of LGBTQ+ Community

HOUSTON, TEXAS – In recent years, the erosion of key rights has left many individuals and communities feeling marginalized and unheard. Restrictions on abortion access, limitations on the autonomy of transgender youth and their families, and the policing of educators’ lessons on important social issues have become all too common across the United States. Even the libertarian think tank Cato Institute ranks Texas at the bottom when it comes to personal freedoms.

This assault on personal liberties has primarily occurred at the state level, prompting concerns about the diminishing influence of the supremacy clause and the federal government’s commitment to upholding national values. It begs the question: has pluralism as an American value progressively declined? Some argue that the shortcomings extend beyond inadequate federal legislation. While the proposed Equality Act remains pending, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in states like Texas continues to surge. Yet, there are other limitations on state power, as the U.S. Constitution dictates that state laws must yield to federal legislation and any ratified treaties.

Recognizing the disparity between American law and global human rights standards, Equality Texas has joined forces with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law to address the shortcomings in protecting LGBTQ+ Texans. Their joint allegation letter, also supported by the Human Rights Campaign, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, appeals to 17 independent experts and special rapporteurs to investigate how recently passed anti-LGBTQ+ bills infringe upon essential rights such as nondiscrimination, freedom of expression, privacy, health, and education.

The letter specifically highlights the negative impact of the ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youths, which not only discriminates against them but also denies them access to vital treatments available to nontransgender patients. Additionally, the broad and vaguely defined label of “sexually relevant” materials in Texas House Bill 900 empowers school boards to remove books with LGBTQ+ themes, jeopardizing the right to education for countless young individuals seeking understanding about their own communities.

While the violations are evident at the individual bill level, the joint allegation letter zooms out to emphasize the collective impact, illustrating how these bills disproportionately target and harm the LGBTQ+ community. By failing to safeguard the rights of this marginalized segment of the population, both Texas and the federal government demonstrate an inability to meet universal human rights standards established through treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Enforcing these international human rights commitments has faced numerous obstacles, including those erected by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the failure to uphold these standards is not just an indictment of the court system or the executive branch but also highlights a decline in moral leadership on the global stage. To preserve our identity as a diverse and inclusive nation, we must embrace the values and principles that freedom demands. By defending the rights of all individuals, including those who may lead lives different from our own, we can ensure that our society remains a melting pot of cultures, faiths, and identities.

While fighting unjust laws and holding lawmakers accountable is vital, there is a smaller yet equally meaningful mission at hand: challenging ourselves to actively engage with those whose lives diverge from ours. This may mean forging friendships with individuals from different religious backgrounds, volunteering at shelters, or supporting nonprofits that champion diverse communities. Waiting for lawmakers to have a change of heart is a wearisome endeavor, but each of us has the power to live out our values and make a difference today.

In a world grappling with complex debates surrounding LGBTQ+ rights, the core issues at stake are actually quite simple. It is a matter of choosing between uniformity and diversity, censorship and education, and personal freedom versus political agendas. Regardless of our own identities or experiences, we can all appreciate the significance of medical freedom, reject censorship, and support individual autonomy. The beauty of international human rights law lies in its ability to bridge cultural and faith differences, embodying an agreement on the fundamental rights that all humans deserve.

As the fight for equality continues, it is crucial that we remain steadfast in defending the principles that make us uncomfortable. To sustain our status as the land of the free, we must have the courage to celebrate and protect the diversity that freedom inherently entails.