Gay For Pay

by The New Republic Staff | March 30, 2007

It goes without saying that one of the worst consequences of the Bush administration is our damaged reputation abroad. But a corollary to that damage has been an overreaction on some parts of the left (and the paleo-conservative right) about America's moral standing in the world. America, and Americans, are so much more than the leaders we elect. We are more than Bush, and our reputation of standing up for human rights abroad, stopping totalitarian movements from conquering the world (several times in the last century, by my count), et al, will survive the damage wreaked by the current administration. This contention, that America is not irredeemable, ought to be a central tenet of American liberalism. Of course, the world perception of our moral standing has fallen, but far out of proportion to what is actually justified. Case in point, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (whose knee-jerk anti-Americanism has been discussed before at TNR ) has refused to publicize the State Department's annual report on human rights, specifically its pertinence to gay rights abroad. Every year, State issues such a report and makes an effort to include countries' treatment of gays as part of a broader analysis in human rights trends. The latest controversy over IGLHRC is detailed in The Bay Area Reporter, a gay newspaper in San Francisco. IGLHRC's executive director, Paula Ettlebrick, who seems unable to open her mouth about the horrendous treatment of gays overseas without throwing in a line about how awful her own country is, said, "Who is the U.S. to issue a report on every other government in the world on its human rights activities, especially in light of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib?" Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (the former a disgrace and the latter hardly so) should not rise to the level of epic disasters responsible for utterly destroying America's moral authority. But they have, largely because of individuals like Ettlebrick, who suffer from a serious case of moral obtuseness. As a supposed gay rights activist whose job it is to monitor how her brothers and sisters are being treated around the world (especially the third world), Ettlebrick ought to stick to her job. Last month, I wrote that that IGLHRC "does not really do much." Here is further confirmation of that assertion. Even left-wing gays are taking IGLHRC to task. Michael Petrelis, a Green Party activist in San Francisco, said, "I grieve for my community and how it doesn't demand consistent, quality gay advocacy on crucial global gay rights abuses from our paid advocates." Indeed, the job of highlighting the State Department's report, in relation to gay issues, has been left to the decidedly unpaid D.C. activist Rick Rosendall, who does a fine job here. --James Kirchick

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