By Albert Lin
One New Jersey congressman has been rebuked by another for saying that the rights of LGBT people are not human rights.
At a Jan. 27 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Republican Congressman Chris Smith, the chair of the subcommittee, prefaced a question with this statement: “I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and do not construe homosexual rights as human rights. Others have a different view and I certainly respect them.”
Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. issued a statement condemning Smith:
“What is so troubling and inexplicable about Congressman Smith’s comments is that he makes a distinction between the rights of LGBT individuals and the rights of humans. The day that we begin plucking certain categories of people out from under the protections of universal human rights because of who they are is the day we abandon our commitment to building a more just world.As Pope Francis stated while discussing the impact of Catholic teachings on LGBT people, ‘It says they should not be marginalized because of this but that they must be integrated into society.’
“Congressman Smith is welcome to have his own opinions, but when he makes such an inflammatory statement in an effort to push the administration into ignoring the rights of LGBT people as a matter of policy, it crosses the line.Representatives in Congress must be promoting the expansion of human rights, not fighting to limit its definition to people that they deem to be appropriate.
“In New Jersey we have a proud and vibrant LGBT community that makes innumerable contributions to the state, including in Congressman Smith’s district.While we still have work to do to advance LGBT equality in the United States, we should strive to see the United States as an example of LGBT equality and universal human rights.”
The LGBT Caucus of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee also weighed in. “It’s simple: LGBT rights are human rights. It’s shocking that Smithor anyone in his positionwould make such close-minded comments to the contrary,” Caucus Co-Chair Chris Hillmann said. “For a person in his position to dehumanize such a large segment of our society and to suggest that members of the LGBT community are creating hurdles for U.S. diplomats is appalling on so many levels. Representative Smith should apologize for trying to pit some people’s human rights against those of others.”
Smith told NJ.com: “It is a little shocking how they’re twisting my words and [it is also] profoundly inaccurate.”
In an earlier statement, Smith said, “My record is consistent in demonstrating support for democratic rule and universally recognized human rights for all. It is unfortunate that political foes are using the volatile situation in Nigeria to distort my record and push their own political interests.”
The comment came during a discussion of U.S. support for Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram. Nigeria banned same-gender marriage last January, introducing a 14-year prison sentence for any couples convicted of entering into a same-gender marriage or civil union.
Smith went on to ask a State Department official whether the adminstration’s view on LGBT rights “affected in any way or in any way hindered” U.S. support. The official said no.