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Texas petitioned at United Nations over laws targeting LGBTQ communities

At least seven laws passed by Texas legislators and signed by the governor last year target LGBTQ people in violation of federal and international human rights law, four LGBTQ advocacy groups wrote Monday in a petition to the United Nations.

The groups in a joint letter of allegation submitted Monday to 17 independent experts, working groups and special rapporteurs at the U.N. wrote that Texas leaders during the state’s last legislative session intentionally targeted the LGBTQ community through hostile laws that have upended the lives of LGBTQ Texans.

“Taken individually, the seven pieces of legislation discussed in this submission will disrupt the lives of LGBTQIA+ people of various ages and backgrounds. Put together, the Bills are a systemic attack on the fundamental rights, dignities, and identities of LGBTQIA+ persons that opens the gates for discrimination by both public and private actors,” the groups wrote in Monday’s letter.

Texas lawmakers in 2023 filed at least 55 bills targeting LGBTQ individuals, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), accounting for roughly 10 percent of anti-LGBTQ legislation filed nationwide last year.

Monday’s appeal to the U.N. focuses on seven of them. They include Senate Bill 14, which bars health care providers from administering gender-affirming care to minors; Senate Bill 17, which prevents public universities in the state from maintaining diversity, equity and inclusion programs; and Senate Bill 15, which prevents transgender athletes from competing at the collegiate level.

The seven measures also include Senate Bill 763, which allows unregistered religious chaplains to counsel children in Texas public schools; Senate Bill 12, which restricts drag performances; House Bill 900, which enables schools to ban LGBTQ library books; and House Bill 2127, which limits the ability of cities to pass certain local ordinances that conflict with state law.

The letter asks the U.N. to request information on each of the bills from the Texas state government, including how the bills protect the rights of LGBTQ people. It also requests that the U.N. call for the bills to be repealed and encourage the passage of stronger state and federal nondiscrimination protections.

“Considering the danger this represents, we humbly ask for you to make inquiries into this backsliding of human rights of LGBTQIA+ persons in the state of Texas,” reads the letter, signed by Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and The University of Texas at Austin School of Law Human Rights Clinic.

Monday’s letter also criticizes the federal government’s response to anti-LGBTQ laws passed in Texas and other states. At least 84 bills targeting LGBTQ people became law last year, according to the ACLU.

The groups in Monday’s letter claim the Biden administration’s lack of sufficient action constitutes a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — a decades-old U.N. treaty committing nations to protect and preserve basic human rights.

“The United States federal government has a duty to respect and ensure the rights under international human rights law without discrimination. In failing to secure Texas’s compliance with the letter and spirit of these obligations, the United States has failed in protecting the human rights of residents of Texas and thus failed to uphold its obligations under international human rights law,” the groups wrote in the letter.

“Allowing the unchecked proliferation of such bills in state legislatures indicates an unwillingness to adhere to the human rights norms of the ICCPR, both from individual states and the federal government,” they added.

“Failing to meet the minimum standards of international human rights treaties highlights the dire state of LGBTQIA+ rights in Texas,” Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez said in a Monday news release. “When state leaders fail us, we turn to the courts and the federal government, when they fail us we turn to the world.”

Lawsuits challenging new state-level restrictions on gender-affirming health care, transgender athlete participation, bathroom use and drag performances have been filed across the country, with mixed results.

In Texas, an injunction blocking the enforcement of Senate Bill 14, the gender-affirming care ban, was automatically paused after the state attorney general’s office filed an appeal. Texas’s Supreme Court allowed the ban to take effect in September.

In November, a U.N. committee said it was “concerned” by the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the U.S.

“While noting the various legislative and policy initiatives adopted at the federal level, the Committee is concerned at the increase in the number of state laws that severely restrict the rights of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the committee wrote in a December report.

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