January 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Blinken pledges to ‘repudiate’ State Department human rights commission
Antony Blinken (Photo public domain)

President-elect Biden’s nominee to become the next secretary of state on Tuesday said he would “repudiate” a controversial human rights advisory commission his would-be predecessor created.

Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019 announced the Commission for Unalienable Rights — chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican who is known for her opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples — would stress “natural laws and natural rights.”

Antony Blinken in response to a question that U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) asked during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reiterated his opposition to the commission that the Center for Global Equality and other advocacy groups have challenged in federal court.

Blinken told Markey he would once again allow ambassadors to fly Pride flags at their embassies if confirmed to succeed Pompeo. Blinken also pledged to raise the State Department’s special envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights to an ambassador level position.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 announced the creation of the position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It has remained unfilled since 2017.

Markey has introduced a bill that would make the position permanent within the State Department.

“After four years of Trump administration efforts to specifically marginalize, minimalize, do damage to the rights of LGBTI people, I think it’s going to be vital to appoint a seasoned expert on these issues,” said Markey during Blinken’s confirmation hearing.

Blinken in response to Markey’s question about the envoy position noted the numbers of transgender people — and particularly trans women of color — who have been reported killed are the highest they have ever been.

“The U.S. playing the role it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTIQ people is something that the department is going to take on and take on immediately,” said Blinken.

Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley welcomed Blinken’s comments.

“We were delighted by Blinken’s immediate and unequivocal support for the LGBTI special envoy position at the State Department and for his interest in elevating it to ambassadorial rank,” Bromley told the Washington Blade after the hearing ended. “He also committed to repositioning human rights for LGBTI persons as an administration priority, speaking movingly about violence impacting LGBTI individuals and particularly trans people of color.”

“We look forward to working with the new secretary of state and the new special envoy to promote global equality,” he added.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is among the committee members who said they support Blinken’s nomination. The Washington Post on Tuesday reported the U.S. Senate will likely confirm Blinken.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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