When the U. N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities was rejected by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 4, all of the negative votes were cast by Republicans. Their main reason, they say, had nothing to do with the purpose of the document. They want us to believe that they really do love us and want what’s best for us. But they fear that the United Nations will gain sovereign power over the United States if they vote yes. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show characterized their position this way: “It’s official,” he said, his head in his hands. “Republicans hate the U.N. more than they like helping people in wheelchairs!”
Do the Republicans not know that 22 years after its passage, the ADA still can’t be enforced by the nation that made it law? The Justice Department is so lacking in enforcement power that they leave it to us — those of us with disabilities whose civil rights have been denied — to bring our own lawsuits. And when we bring them, there is a great outcry from businesses, certain cities, and even states that say they are being forced to comply with an unreasonable law.
If the U.S. Dept. of Justice can’t enforce the ADA, what chance would the U.N. have to enforce the CRPD, which is modeled after the ADA? Does the U.N. have thousands of attorneys waiting to swarm our nation, briefcases in hand? That’s what it would take. In New York City alone there are thousands of violations of the ADA at this moment. The fear of an invasion by U.N. civil rights enforcers is not only unfounded, many are calling it a form of delusional paranoia.
Could the Republican position be a logical extension of the “states rights” position — fear of mega-government invading our homes? Rick Santorum thinks so, and one region overwhelmingly buys his rhetoric. Ten of the original confederate states — having a total of 20 senatorial votes — cast 16 nays. In the remaining 40 states, which had a total of 80 votes, 57 senators voted yea. That means 80 percent of senators in the original confederate states (excluding Virginia) voted against the CRPD, while 71 percent of senators in the rest of the nation voted for it. Apparently, the anti-civil rights mentality is still alive and well in the South.
Houston, we have a problem.
But the real problem, according to Human Rights Watch, is international in nature. Here’s how HRW describes it:
“Globally, many of the world’s one billion individuals with disabilities struggle for access to education and employment, for the right to live in the community instead of being locked up in institutions, to express their sexuality and have children, and to participate in political and social life. Individuals with physical and mental disabilities often face increased violence and discrimination, yet they remain invisible in their communities.”
Small-minded Republicans, wake up! The civil rights of one billion people with disabilities — including those in your own nation — supercede your unreasonable fears!