UN human rights committee calls on US to repeal anti-LGBTQ+ laws

Joe Biden rolling up his sleeves whilst sat at the White House desk.

The UN has issued criticism of the US’ record on LGBTQ+ rights, following a flood of discriminatory state legislation in 2023.

As part of a review of the country’s human rights record by the UN National Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), the committee expressed concern over laws approved by US state legislatures that seek to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

The UNHRC is required to review the human rights record of countries that approved the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) every four years. The US ratified the law in 1992.

The US review was postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that this year’s review is the first for the US in nine years.

In its concluding observations, published on 3 November, the UNHRC wrote that many of the recent bills pushed in state Houses across the US “severely restrict the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity”.

It specifically pointed to laws that ban gender-affirming care or “forbid transgender individuals from using restrooms of participating in school sports”.

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“The [United States] should adopt all measures necessary to ensure that state laws that discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity are repealed,” the report read.

“It should also intensify its efforts to combat violence against and discrimination of persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, including with regard to access to housing, health, employment, and in correctional facilities.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ bills skyrocketed in the US in 2023

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has reported that more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in US since the beginning of 2023.

Independent journalist Erin Reed’s anti-trans legislative risk assessment map has found at least 532 bills targeting trans people in America, and suggests that Kansas, Tennessee, Montana, Oklahoma, and North Dakota are among the worst states for LGBTQ+ people.

Perhaps the most dangerous state to be LGBTQ+ is Florida, where Republican governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has enacted some of the most discriminatory bills.

The situation in Florida has become so severe that, in May 2023, human rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued an updated travel advisory recommending LGBTQ+ people stay away from the Sunshine State.

“Those who visit must join us in their vocal opposition to these dangerous policies,” HRC president Kelley Robinson said in a statement. “Those who pick another place to work, go to school or to spend their vacation should make clear why they’re not heading to Florida.

“To all of our friends and family in Florida, with stand with you and with Equality Florida – we’ll keep working hard to make Florida feel more like the home you deserve it to be.”

UN welcomes the Respect for Marriage Act and other pro-LGBTQ+ bills

While the UN’s report largely expressed concern for the United States’ decline in upholding human rights for marginalised groups, it did note a number of positive bills passed over the last few years.

It mentioned the Respect for Marriage Act, passed in late 2022, which removed dormant legislature that – if made active again – would have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman only.

It also pointed to a bill passed in June 2023 which expanded the Affordable Care Act to allow women to access affordable contraception and birth control.