President-elect Trump’s nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has a mixed record on LGBT rights.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she asked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney whether he opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples before endorsing his 2012 presidential campaign. She later said it was her “job to uphold” her state’s constitution and defend its same-sex marriage ban.
Haley opposes the Obama administration’s guidance that says public schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity. She told reporters earlier this year that a law like North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — which bans trans people from using public restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances — is not “necessary” in South Carolina.
Haley said in the Republican Party’s response to President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address that the GOP “would respect differences in modern families” if it were to regain the White House. She added her party would “also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.”
Advocates have sharply criticized Haley over her administration’s HIV/AIDS policies.
She rejected state level matching funds for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides medications to low income people with HIV/AIDS. Haley also refused to expand Medicaid and rejected federal funds through the Affordable Care Act that Obama signed in 2010.
Haley, whose parents are from India, did not mention LGBT rights in the statement she released on Nov. 23 after Trump announced her nomination. Haley did note her support of the Confederate flag’s removal from the grounds of the South Carolina State House after a gunman killed nine people inside the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston in June 2015.
“Our country faces enormous challenges here and internationally,” said Haley in her statement.
Power set ‘very high standard’ at U.N.
Current U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power has emerged as a forceful LGBT rights advocate since she assumed her post in 2013.
Power said at a 2015 Council for Global Equality luncheon in D.C. that the U.S. “methodically and aggressively” fought Russia’s unsuccessful efforts to overturn U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s directive to provide spousal benefits to gay U.N. personnel who are legally married.
The U.S. and Chile in August 2015 co-hosted the first-ever U.N. Security Council meeting on an LGBT-specific issue that focused on the so-called Islamic State’s persecution of LGBT Syrians and Iraqis. Subhi Nahas, a gay man from the Syrian city of Idleb who now lives in the U.S., was among those who spoke.
Power was among those who spoke at a White House “dialogue” on global LGBT rights that took place less than a month after a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The U.S. is among the 84 countries that opposed efforts to suspend the U.N.’s first-ever LGBT watchdog that the U.N. Human Rights Council created earlier this year.
“Throughout the Obama administration, the U.S. has been a champion of LGBT rights at the U.N.,” OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in a statement. “It is fair to say that the major victories would have not happened, or would have been won by narrower victories, without the very significant engagement of the U.S.”
Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, told the Blade that Power “set a very high standard for U.S. ambassadors to the U.N.”
“Gov. Haley will have very big shoes to fill,” said Cobb. “She and her staff must continue to address LGBTQ human rights at the U.N. Lives depend on it.”
Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo wrote in a tweet after Trump announced Haley’s nomination that she is “more than qualified to be U.N. ambassador.” He also referred the Blade to Haley’s call for the GOP to “respect differences in modern families.”
“If you’re concerned about global LGBT rights, you should be cheering Donald Trump’s selection of Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador,” said Angelo in another tweet.
— Gregory T. Angelo (@gregorytangelo) November 23, 2016
Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli of Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti, an advocacy group in the Indian state of Telangana, told the Blade on Wednesday in an email that Haley “does come across as a moderate and a responsible voice with(in) the GOP” in spite of her opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples. Mogli added many Indian LGBT activists have welcomed Trump’s decision to nominate her to succeed Power at the U.N.
“Many of us here think (it) is important to welcome and applaud the fact that a second-generation immigrant American as (sic) Nikki Haley ascends to her new role as the ambassador to the U.N.,” Mogli told the Blade. “It is imperative to find newer ways and renew strategies of engagement.”
Stern told the Blade in her statement the U.S. cannot defend waterboarding and other forms of punishment that U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and many others have described as torture. She also said the U.S. must pay its dues to the U.N. and “value human rights and humanitarian assistance over political isolation and hawkish posturing.”
“For LGBTI human rights to grow at the international level, we need the Trump administration to uphold the human rights system for everyone: LGBTI, Muslim, immigrant, refugee and beyond,” said Stern.