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UN petition accuses Texas of human rights violations over anti-LGBTQ+ laws

Festival-goers watch a drag performance during the Texas Latinx Pride Festival Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Reverchon Park in Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
Festival-goers watch a drag performance during the Texas Latinx Pride Festival Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Reverchon Park in Dallas.

Civil rights groups accused Texas of human rights violations in a petition to the United Nations Monday, warning of "unchecked" discrimination based on a slew of recently passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

The letter references proposed anti-LGBTQ+ bills before and during the 88th Legislative Session — including bans on gender-affirming care, transgender athletes joining sports teams that align with their gender identity, and more than 140 other pieces of legislation — along with dozens of statements and opinions issued by state officials including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The joint letter was submitted by Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas and GLAAD.

“Together these laws 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,” Equality Texas wrote in a statement Monday.

Paxton's office did not return a request for comment Monday afternoon.

The group's petition also cites cases outside of Texas impacted by the state’s laws, such as the Seattle Children’s Hospital lawsuit against Paxton who blocked the release of patient information for transition-related care.

Other anti-LGBTQ+ legislation listed in the letter include school library book bans, laws eliminating trans youth medical care, anti-drag bills, and, most recently, the removal of DEI practices on public universities.

Senate Bill 17, which prevents Texas university system schools from establishing or maintaining a diversity, equity, and inclusion office, took effect this year.

Some Texas universities have rebranded or altogether replaced their DEI offices. UT Arlington rebranded its Office of Talent, Culture and Inclusion to the Office of Talent, Culture, and Engagement, KERA News previously reported. UT Dallas also renamed its DEI office with a new Office of Campus Resources and Support.

In August, UT Dallas President Richard Benson said no DEI employees would lose their jobs.

"If you look past what maybe you call it, you know, diversity and inclusion, if it’s things like mentoring, recruiting and the like, support, we will continue to do those things," Benson said. "And so it’ll go under a different name."

In a December report on the state of human rights in the U.S., the UN Human Rights Committee said it was concerned with the increase of state legislation that "severely restricts the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."

In its joint letter, Equality Texas listed several requests to the UN including requesting information from the U.S. federal government on how it is securing equal rights of LGBTQ+ Texans.

Equality Texas also asked the UN to recommend to the Texas state government and the U.S. federal government to repeal the bills and introduce stronger legislation to protect LGBTQ+ rights at both the federal and state levels.

"The governor and other leaders are failing in their basic responsibilities to keep all Texans safe and free," Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, wrote in a statement. "We stand with our partners in Texas and nationwide in ensuring our concerns are heard by the United Nations and to urge all voices to speak up and act to protect LGBTQ Texans from state-sponsored misinformation, discrimination and violence."

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Megan Cardona
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