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... Utah's shame

Published December 6, 2012 5:21 pm

Lee, Hatch destroy a humane treaty
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The fact that one of our elected officials, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, was a leader in the move to block Senate ratification of a United Nations treaty promoting the rights of disabled people world-wide brings shame on the entire state of Utah

Lee, along with former Sen. Rick Santorum, led the successful effort to stop the Senate from ratifying the pact Tuesday. The vote was 61-38 in favor, but that is five votes short of the constitutionally required two-thirds majority for the adoption of an international treaty.

Lee and other opponents — including Utah's other senator, Orrin Hatch — based their inhumane argument on the wholly bogus claim that, by signing onto a set of standards that echo the existing, and exemplary, Americans with Disabilities Act, both the nation and its citizens would somehow become subservient to U.N. bureaucrats. That these foreign personages would enforce their, rather than our, opinions on what actions should be taken to give disabled people the best possible shot at a full life.

Particularly at risk, Lee argued, was the right of parents to care for their disabled children, and to home school them if they wish. But that fear is a total fantasy.

If anything, the loss of U.S. participation in the treaty makes it less likely that other nations will offer the kind of accommodations for the disabled that have become standard in the U.S. since the ADA was adopted in 1990.

The failure of the ratification vote also makes it more likely that business standards in Third World nations will continue to lag behind those in the U.S. and other advanced societies. Those factories, owned by or selling to U.S. firms, will continue to undercut American factories by avoiding the short-term costs of adapting workplaces for the disabled. For that reason, the suspicion that Lee's goal was not to protect American families but to curry the favor of multinational sweat-shop exploiting businesses is impossible to dismiss.

Before Lee and other tea party extremists raised their fallacious arguments, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was a bipartisan no-brainer. It was negotiated by the George W. Bush administration. It was modeled after the ADA, which was signed by President George H.W. Bush and co-authored by then-Sen. Bob Dole.

Dole, disabled in the service of his country in World War II, frail and wheelchair-bound at age 89, came to the Senate floor Tuesday to lobby for the treaty. The fact that Lee, Hatch and 36 other senators, all Republicans, could stand before their former leader and vote down this treaty is an example of political cowardice of the worst sort.