OutRight Reacts to Confirmation of Nikki Haley as U.S Ambassador to the United Nations

In reaction to Nikki Haley’s confirmation as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, OutRight examined her responses to questions during her Senate confirmation hearing and questions for the record about protecting LGBTI rights internationally.

Nikki Haley by Gage Skidmore

When Senator Booker asked Ambassador Haley during the hearing about her willingness to protect LGBT rights internationally, she responded, “I think it’s very important that we talk about America’s values. We do not allow discrimination against anyone. I will always speak out about this. We don’t want to permit discrimination here or in any country.”

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In Senator Cardin’s question for the record, he asked, “If confirmed, how will you represent the government in discussions regarding the rights of LGBT persons?” Ambassador Haley answered, “As I stated during my hearing, I strongly believe that the US should unabashedly promote American values. If confirmed, I will work to advance human rights for everyone.”

Likewise, Senator Shaheen asked, “If confirmed, will you work to further the rights of LGBT individuals around the world? Will you continue U.S. participation in the LGBT core group? What other actions will you take to further this important issue?” Ambassador Haley answered, “As I stated during my hearing, I strongly believe that the U.S. should unabashedly promote American values. If confirmed, I will work to advance human rights for everyone.”

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, responded:

I am reassured that Governor Haley condemned discrimination on any basis. On the surface, these are strong and inclusive statements; that’s certainly how I want to interpret them.

At the same time, I can’t help but notice that Governor Haley didn’t say the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. This is important. At the United Nations, diplomats fight tooth and nail over every word because each one influences international law, public policies, and government budgets.

When these words aren’t spoken, we see dire consequences like “conversion” therapy of gay men, forced marriages of lesbians, or mandatory sterilization of transgender people. We need LGBTI people to be specifically named and protected. OutRight looks forward to working with the new ambassador to ensure an unequivocal and specific American voice against discrimination and violence internationally – on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, gender, race, faith, nationality or any other status.

While Ambassador Haley has not explicitly mentioned LGBTI people in her Senate confirmation statements, Stern noted with deep concern that she repeatedly described herself as “pro-life.” “Progress at the UN is made through work in coalitions, and rights for LGBTI people and women’s reproductive rights go hand-in-hand,” Stern noted. “Quite simply, you cannot have one without the other.

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers earlier this month introduced a bill in Congress that calls on the President to terminate U.S. membership in the United Nations, completely stop U.S funding to the UN (currently U.S funding accounts for 22% of the UN’s budget), and the removal of UN headquarters from New York City.

Commenting on the proposed bill, Stern stated, “This bill would devastate the most vulnerable people around the world. If the U.S were to leave the UN, it would say to all countries that international law is arbitrary and governments can do whatever they want to their people without accountability. We would see the unraveling of bilateral and multilateral relations, and it would be chaos. We look forward to working with Ambassador Haley to ensure that the US continues to support multilateral mechanisms like the UN itself.

Stern concluded by saying, “While the US may no longer help drive LGBTI rights at the UN, the US should maintain its constructive engagement. At UN headquarters, this means that Ambassador Haley must continue US participation in the LGBT Core Group and continue in coalition with LGBTI-friendly foreign governments like those that have recently fought for the Independent Expert on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Photo Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons