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European Union Joins the Backlash Over Transgender Rights in U.S. States

The European Union accuses three U.S. states with anti-LGBT laws of violating UN rights covenant .

GettyImages-530272106
GettyImages-530272106

The National Basketball Association, Google, Deutsche Bank, Paypal, and dozens of other entities have condemned what many perceive to be anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. Musicians including Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam and Ani DiFranco have canceled shows over it. Britain has warned its citizens about traveling to the states. Now, the European Union is getting in on the act.

In a statement issued Thursday, the EU said laws in North Carolina, Mississippi, and another in Tennessee that allows counselors to reject patients, contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Signatories to the U.N. covenant -- and the United States is one of them -- pledge to protect civil and individual rights, including the freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and electoral rights.

Because Washington has signed the accord, “cultural, traditional or religious values cannot be invoked to justify any form of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI persons. These laws should be reconsidered as soon as possible,” the EU said in a statement.

The National Basketball Association, Google, Deutsche Bank, Paypal, and dozens of other entities have condemned what many perceive to be anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. Musicians including Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam and Ani DiFranco have canceled shows over it. Britain has warned its citizens about traveling to the states. Now, the European Union is getting in on the act.

In a statement issued Thursday, the EU said laws in North Carolina, Mississippi, and another in Tennessee that allows counselors to reject patients, contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Signatories to the U.N. covenant — and the United States is one of them — pledge to protect civil and individual rights, including the freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and electoral rights.

Because Washington has signed the accord, “cultural, traditional or religious values cannot be invoked to justify any form of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI persons. These laws should be reconsidered as soon as possible,” the EU said in a statement.

The EU’s condemnation can’t force any of the states to change their laws; the alliance’s statement simply adds another voice of opposition to them. And local leaders, most notably North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), have so far refused to reconsider the legislation. His state’s law bans people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

After the Justice Department said the N.C. bill violated federal law, North Carolina sued the federal government for “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.” The U.S Justice Department then filed a suit of their own, arguing the opposite. During a press conference earlier this week announcing the action, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “State-sanctioned discrimination never works and never looks good in hindsight.”

“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference,” she added.

But McCrory has refused to back down. During an interview with CNN after the federal government filed suit, he called the lawsuit “totally irresponsible.” In the past, he’s blamed the backlash to the bill on the media and Democrats.

If anything, opposition from an international body from the EU is only likely to harden his resolve; federal overreach into state politics is at the core of this dispute. Now, a foreign entity is trying to meddle, something that isn’t likely to go over well with the North Carolina GOP.

Photo credit: SARA P. DAVIS/Getty Images

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