The harmful comments of those in power

When we think of human rights violations we often think of extremes in poor foreign countries where people are being killed for who they are, but rights are violated everywhere. European countries have a history filled with violating atrocities. Examples include the Atlantic Slave Trade and the colonization of America where millions of Native Americans were slaughtered. These are extreme examples and are often still given more attention than rights being violated now. Women are not paid the same amount as men and are objectified and violated; Gay and transgender people cannot use the restroom of their choice and can get kicked out of housing. This discrimination is not coming from radical groups, but from our businesses and governments. New laws are being passed that allow discrimination based on religious freedom and presidential hopefuls mock women for trying to get involved in politics. People should be taken seriously and should be respected by the people who govern them or the leaders will be inefficient.

The three republican presidential candidates have said shameful things about women and gays, but the most horrific rhetoric about gays comes from Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. He supports religious freedom bills around the country because he believes marriage is up to the states. When asked by a gay republican how he would protect him and his husband he claims that “religious liberty protects everyone.” Not only does he not answer the question the man asked, but he continues to say how everyone has the right to be treated equally under the first amendment. He denies the fact that if Obergefell V. Hodges is overturned gay people will not be treated equally because they will not have legal marriage rights. If marriage is a states’ issue, what would happen if heterosexual marriage was put into question? A website called Red State says he gave the perfect answer because “it’s a states’ rights issue” and “he [Cruz] doesn’t lose sight of that.” I think it is important for all of us to have different values, but there are some things that are not to be voted like marriage equality. The Declaration of Human Rights states marriage as a human right and saying gay people are not entitled to marriage is essentially saying gay people are not people (UDHR). Division of power between the states can be a good thing, but in the case of marriage there is nothing to vote on.

Ted Cruz is vocal about his conservative views and that allowed him to talk about his lifelong fight for religious liberty, but I struggle to find a point in American history where Christianity was threatened. Even though he says he wants religious liberty for all, his actions say differently as he supported the monitoring of Muslim neighborhoods (CNN). A man expressed his support for Cruz as opening as he expressed his opinion that Hitler was sent by God to kill Jewish people. While Cruz said he disagreed with that statement, he did not distance himself from the man and boasted his support (Maddow). This is the antithesis of religious tolerance. Ted Cruz has proven that he is not in favor of religious tolerance, but of Evangel domination.

Perhaps the most horrifying thing Ted Cruz has done is speak at an anti gay conference in Utah, or the National Religious Liberties Conference. The pastor uses Leviticus to talk about the execution of the gays and says he’s “not afraid to go to jail” for defending the word of God.  This ‘kills the gays’ conference has received national attention as Cruz’s ethics were questioned. Right after the pastor discusses capital punishment for gay people, Cruz walks up on stage and shakes the man’s hand. Regardless if he agrees with the pastor his actions make it okay for others to agree the pastor. As presidential candidates they must take stances on certain issues, but being friendly with a hateful man normalizes hate and can increase discrimination and violence against LGBT people. The problem with the outlandish statements the pastor and people like him make is that people brush them off as extremists. Their statements don’t get taken seriously so they continue to make them and get a following. We have seen historical extremism and the damage is causes. 

While the speech is appalling, can it be considered a human rights violation? That depends on your definition of human rights. A clearer violation comes from the states passing anti-LBGT laws which allow discrimination based on religion. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Mississippi allows prejudice. “

“The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization wholly or   partially on the basis that such organization:
‘Makes any employment-related decision’

‘Makes any decision concerning the sale, rental’

‘occupancy of, or terms and conditions of occupying a dwelling or other housing’

‘declined to provide any adoption or foster care service, or related service’
‘photography, poetry, videography’”

The people of Mississippi can deny services if is goes against their religious beliefs. While the bill focuses on LGBT issues, it does not specify what kind of discrimination can take place. Without the specification other kinds of discrimination are taking place. In Mississippi an interracial couple was kicked out of a trailer complex because the owner said “it’s a big problem with the members of my church.” Even though the couple was given back their home, they have to pay 50 dollars more a month. These laws are bringing out the internalized racism and homophobia to the forefront. One supporter writes “pushing for gay rights will be easier if religious objectors can trust that the state will not be used to compel them to violate their deepest beliefs” (federalist). This writer believes that the more people push the more resistance there will be. While this statement is definitely true, he disregards the fact that most of the discrimination is being carried out in the name of religious freedom. If religious people followed every single rule in their book it would be more expected of them to not be okay with gay people, but there is hypocrisy in this strong homophobia. When people are not consistent with whom they get their rules from and if they follow them, it leads me to believe that they are not doing anything in the name of religion, but in the name of hate and homophobia.

Homophobia can often be explained by many factors including the pressure to be masculine, and that pressure can also create intense sexism. Along with homophobia we see sexism in the government every day. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is no stranger to sexist comments, even about his own daughter. In one instance he said, “yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …” (USA Magazine). Immediately he sexualizes his daughter essentially saying he would date his daughter if she was not his daughter. This kind of language excuses the sexual insults women receive too often. Trump has also made comments to Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly, most notably, “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her … wherever” (USA Magazine). This is harmful because it marginalizes and patronizes women as a whole by reducing her to hormones from her period. The reason Trump does that is because she was able to ask him questions that he could not answer without showing how he really feels about women.

John Kasich has said different types of derogatory comments about women. At a rally at the University of Richmond and young woman raised her hand to ask a question. Before she asked he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any Taylor Swift concert tickets” (USA). This statement implies women have no political worth, and do not know what they are talking about. At another point the campaign he also said “many women, [who] left their kitchens to go out and go door-to-door and to put yard signs up for me” (CNN). These two are just a few examples of demeaning and disrespectful things he has said about women. Trump and Kasich have said poor things about women, but they are in different context. Donald Trump comments more on women’s sexuality and physical appearance while Kasich’s comments portray women as ignorant house wives. Having both stereotypes coming from presidential candidates normalizes sexism. Women have the right to be heard without being diminished to her period or not taken seriously. It may not seem like words violate human rights, but when they create a hostile environment people may feel their rights are being violated.

The gay community, women, and many more minority groups are being marginalized by current presidential candidates by the comments they make. While these comments in themselves may not violate human rights, they encourage laws that do violate human rights like the ones in Mississippi, North Carolina, and other states. When a country with such a strong global presence begins violating human rights it makes it okay for other countries to violate as well. The rights of America’s people are not being noticed or respected and until then, America will not flourish like is could.

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