Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide. We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice.

Donate To This Charity

Money Tracker

$92.1M

Annual Revenue

73%

Spent On Programs

<1%

CEO Compensation

Advocacy

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Awareness

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Direct Service

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Private Sector Collaboration

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Policy Legislation

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Research

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Financials

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



Management

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »



About Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) began in 1978. Originally titled Helsinki Watch, it was created in order to ensure government compliance with the Helsinki Accords, an act established to reduce tension between the Soviet and Western blocs in Europe. In 1981, a second organization named Americas Watch was established to discover information and apply international humanitarian law to the atrocities occurring in civil wars throughout Central America. The 80s also saw the creation of Asia Watch, Africa Watch, and the Middle East Watch. Finally, in 1988, all of the organizations came together to form the current day Human Rights Watch.

HRW is a massive organization with a staff of over 400 experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics working across the globe. They publish over 100 reports a year and describe the status of human rights conditions in approximately 90 countries. They are the go-to information source on human rights by journalists, governments, financial institutions, and the United Nations and European Union.

 


Why We Chose To Feature This Organization

HRW is one of the leading authorities on human rights issues across the globe.  In fact, when we first started preparing our human rights portfolio, we often came across their reports, articles, and publications when searching for relevant information. The breadth of their work is extensive. Their topics include children’s rights, disability rights, free speech, health, LGBT rights, migrant and refugee rights, and women’s rights, among others. Their information is easily categorized and searchable by topic, country, or information source type. As someone who values organization and accessible information, I found HRW’s website to be one of the best from the charities featured on our site.

For our portfolio and this report, we are focusing on HRW’s work protecting LGBT rights (specifically the right to marriage) both at home and abroad. While the US has made great strides in granting LGBT people more rights and greater protections, there is still a lot of work to be done, and we think that HRW is just the organization to lead the fight.

Policy & Legislature

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »

Research

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »

Financials

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »

Management

This section is only available to Donor Pro members. Upgrade Now »

All We Want is Equality: Religious Exemptions and Discrimination Against LGBT People in the United States

Although the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, LGBT people are still not fully equal in the eyes of the law. Federal anti-discrimination laws exist which act to protect individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of their race, color, sex, or ethnic origin, but no such protections for sexual orientation or gender identity exist federally, and less than half of states have such laws. This leaves LGBT people vulnerable to improper treatment when they are fired, evicted, or refused services based on their LGBT status.

When progress is made, backlash follows. An unfortunate truth is that many people, lawmakers included, oppose same-sex marriage, and they are finding ways to use their claims to religion as a legal means of discriminating against the LGBT community. Freedom of religion is an important right that should be protected, however, making religious exemptions that infringe on the rights of others and their right to non-discrimination must not be allowed.

In the past few years, at least eight states have passed new laws which allow LGBT individuals to be discriminated against in the name of someone else’s religious or moral beliefs. The laws are varied and include the ability to refuse wedding goods and services to same-sex couples, denying couples the opportunity to adopt based on their LGBT status, and allowing medical practitioners to deny treatment to LGBT individuals. HRW set out to discover how these laws were affecting individuals in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. We will summarize their findings below.

Many anti-LGBT religious exemptions center on the ability of a person to deny an LGBT individual a service or good. Interviewees recalled being laughed at and hung up on by secretaries in fertility clinics and being outright refused an appointment to meet with doctors. One interviewee was told that her daughter’s longtime pediatrician would no longer see her daughter who was transgender. Eventually, she found a doctor who would accept her daughter as a patient, but he was located in a city three hours away. Even funeral directors have claimed religious exemptions and denied transporting and cremating a late spouse in a gay couple.

When LGBT people are refused a service, they experience both monetary and psychological complications. They have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to find people willing to provide them with the services they need. It isn’t guaranteed that they can find someone nearby, and many interviewees reported having to travel long distances to receive a good or service. This also takes a toll emotionally: receiving hostile treatment based on no fault of their own can be traumatic and degrading. Being a victim to such treatment can lead the individual to forgo future efforts at obtaining services they need, including vital services such as physical and mental health care. This is especially problematic given that LGBT individuals are at a higher risk for both physical and mental health issues, in part due to the vast amount of stress and stigma they are subjected to.  

Allowing for religious exemptions to take precedence over LGBT individuals right to non-discrimination sends a strong message that LGBT individuals are second class citizens in their communities. This message is especially troubling for LGBT youth. Being a teenager is hard enough without being more or less told that you aren’t worthy of equal treatment.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow for individuals to freely practice their religion, but we must work to harmonize freedom of religion with freedom from discrimination based on LGBT status. The United States is a member of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which grants all people the right to equality before the law and the protection from discrimination based on race, color, sex, language, religion, national origin, property, birth, or another status. The UN Human Rights Committee, an authority on the ICCPR, has declared that this provision also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Broad laws which allow for religious exemptions to take precedence over an individual’s right to non-discrimination is a slippery slope, and one that many countries around the world battle every day. Not only can religious exemptions be used to discriminate against LGBT individuals, they can also be used to discriminate on others due to their race, sex, religion, nationality, HIV status, and more. We must keep religious exemptions laws narrow and fair so that they aren’t a free pass for discriminating against whoever the person doesn’t like that day.

HRW recommends that Congress enact the Equality Act (prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity), the Do No Harm Act (prohibiting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to use federal laws to discriminate), and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (prohibiting child welfare agencies that receive federal funding from discriminating against foster parents based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status). They also recommend rejecting the First Amendment Defense Act, Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, and any other legislative proposals which would allow for discrimination against LGBT people based on the providers claimed religious beliefs.

 

Dispatches on Current Events and LGBT News

HRW frequently publishes commentary on human rights abuses and related current events taking place across the world. Their briefs are kept relatively short, and are a great source of information for those interested in various human rights issues. They publish new briefs are the events progress.  

On January 13, 2018, HRW published a dispatch chronicling the difficulties a same-sex couple experienced in having their marriage recognized. The couple, a Romanian citizen and an American citizen, had been together for over 8 years when their request for a recognition of their marriage was refused by the Romanian embassy in Belgium, due to the fact that Romania’s current marriage law does not recognize same-sex marriages. Because of the non-EU status of the American spouse, this registration was necessary in order for him to live and work within the EU. Eventually, the case reached the Romanian Constitutional Court, who then referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, who was to determine the scope of the EU freedom of movement law.

On June 7, nearly six months after their first post, HRW published an article with an update on the case and the laws in question. The European Court of Justice ruled in the couple's favor on June 5. The court decided that although a country may decide for themselves if they want to allow for same-sex marriage within their borders, it is against the tenants of EU membership to discriminate against an individual on the grounds of their sexual orientation. More specifically, they stated that member states “may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU Member State, a derived right of residence in their territory”.

This was a huge win for the LGBT community in Romania and the greater EU. It is important that LGBT advocates and community members are aware of such victories so that they may use them as examples in future battles.

Management

Human Rights Watch

Kenneth Roth

Executive Director

Experience and Education
  • Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School
  • Bachelor of Arts in History from Brown University
Compensation
$528,000

Human Rights Watch

Michele Alexander

Deputy Executive Director of Development and Global Initiatives

Experience and Education
  • Law degree from Brooklyn Law School
Compensation
$323,000

Human Rights Watch

Iain Levine

Deputy Executive Director of Programs

Experience and Education
  • Chief of Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy at UNICEF
  • Master of Science in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries
  • Bachelor of Science from The University of Hull
Compensation
$289,000

Donate To

Donation Type

Amount

Suggested Amount
Custom Amount