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Farris (HSLDA)

Undue influence

Congress | Some conservative leaders warn of U.S. sovereignty issues related to UN disabilities treaty

WASHINGTON- Few would argue against fair treatment of disabled persons, but some conservative leaders are crying foul over a UN treaty now poised to pass the Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month approved the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and sent it to the full Senate, where it will need a two-thirds majority-67 votes-for ratification. The treaty's supporters include Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain and former President George H.W. Bush and former Sen. Bob Dole. They contend the agreement would essentially widen the effects of the Americans with Disabilities Act, giving disabled American citizens more rights when traveling abroad.

But according to Home School Legal Defense Association chairman Michael Farris the CRPD would undermine the American with Disabilities Act rather than strengthen it, taking away U.S. sovereignty and handing it over to unelected UN bureaucrats.

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"By definition, any [treaty] we ratify becomes part of the highest law of the land," he said. "The idea that it has no legal effect just demonstrates that people do not understand international law."

Farris, who holds an advanced degree in international law from the University of London, said the Supreme Court has already set a precedent for referring to international law in Roper v. Simmons, Sullivan and Graham v. Florida, and Lawrence v. Texas. He contended that the treaty would become the ultimate authority in deciding what is best for a child with disabilities. Farris was one of nine witnesses to testify last month at a Foreign Relations hearing on the matter.

The committee's vote broke along party lines with the exception of Republican Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who sided with the Democratic majority in the 13-6 vote.

"Sen. Isakson voted in favor of the Convention in the committee because ratification would signal to the world that the U.S. is committed to continuing its role as the international leader in disability rights," Isakson's press secretary Marie Gordon said. "It will not erode our sovereignty."

Farris said Isakson and other supporters do not understand the difference between a treaty and a declaration. "They lack the knowledge to execute their offices and it's shameful," he said.

Some pro-life advocates take issue with the treaty's protection for "sexual and reproductive health," which arguably includes abortion. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to address that concern, but it was voted down.

Rubio voted against sending the CRPD to the full Senate, along with fellow Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and James Risch of Idaho.

Farris said the odds of stopping the treaty from garnering 67 votes in the Senate are not good if the homeschooling community continues its opposition alone: "We need other defenders of U.S. sovereignty to stand up."

Steven Groves of The Heritage Foundation was the only other one of nine witnesses to testify against ratifying the treaty last month.

More than 115 countries have already signed the treaty.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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