Comment by IGLHRC’s Paula Ettelbrick on the International Context of Lawrence
and Garner v. Texas
Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), June 23, 2003
1375 Sutter Street., Suite 222, San Francisco, CA 94109
Tel: +1-415-561-0633, Fax: +1-415-561-0619
For additional information, please contact:
Paula Ettelbrick (San Francisco): +1-415-561-0633 or +1-917-612-3126
“The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission anticipates a ruling from the United States Supreme Court this week
that would strike down the Texas ‘homosexual conduct law.’ This decision
would finally bring the United States into line with the majority of countries
around the world that do not criminalize same-sex sexual conduct. The decision
would also put the United States into compliance with well-established
obligations under international law. It’s about time that the U.S. follow
the global trend toward respecting the human rights of those whose sexuality
is simply different from prevailing social norms and customs.”
According to IGLHRC:
The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a
ruling in 1994 in Toonen v. Australia, that struck down the
Tasmanian sodomy law on the grounds that it violated privacy and equality
provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Human Rights Committee is the treaty body for this covenant and is
charged with enforcing its provisions. Its rulings are the ultimate
interpretation of this international covenant. The United States ratified
the ICCPR in 1976.
compiled in 2003, IGLHRC found that only 77 countries in the world
maintain enforceable sodomy laws.
sodomy laws exist in only two countries in Central and South America:
Guyana and Nicaragua.
European Union requires countries to repeal their sodomy laws as a
condition of admittance.
In one of
the broadest-reaching gay rights decisions in the world, the South African
Constitutional Court ruled in 1998 that the country’s sodomy laws offend
the dignity and human rights of its citizens.
Constitutions of South Africa and Ecuador explicitly bar discrimination on
the basis of sexual orientation.
Paula L. Ettelbrick is a lawyer and adjunct professor of
law at the University of Michigan and New York University Law Schools. Her
1986-1993 tenure at Lambda Legal Defense as a staff attorney and legal
director coincided with the issuance of the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in
v. Hardwick. She was intimately involved in developing the
constitutional and litigation strategies of the post-Hardwick era.
The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human
Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights
of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis
of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV
status. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC
effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building,
public education, and technical assistance.
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