Carroll County Times

Editorial: Disability rights setback

Some Senate Republicans took scare tactics and false forebodings of threats to our national sovereignty to new heights on Monday when they rejected ratification of a UN treaty aimed at ensuring rights for the disabled.

The treaty, which is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, says that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens, according to the Associated Press. It has been signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries. The treaty was negotiated by the Bush administration, and was backed by respected lawmakers such as Republicans Bob Dole and Sen. John McCain.

Opponents said that it was a threat to U.S. national sovereignty. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, in voting against the treaty, said he didn't support "cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society," according to the Associated Press.

Republicans also said they were against the lame duck session of Congress approving any treaties, even though similar votes have been taken at least 19 times on treaties over the past 40 years during lame duck sessions.

In short, the opposition raised false red flags and created conspiracy theories about U.S. sovereignty similar to those they have created to oppose other UN initiatives, such as those designed to protect the environment or encourage nations to adopt policies that conserve our national resources.

In reality, the treaty only encouraged nations to do all they could to ensure that people with disabilities received the same opportunities and freedoms as everyone. But some Republicans, falling in line behind the inflammatory rhetoric of tea party Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, threw reason aside in casting their votes against the treaty.

Democratic Sen. John Kerry summed it up fairly well. "It really isn't controversial," Kerry told the Associated Press. "What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can't discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act."

The Senate vote was a disappointing setback in efforts to ensure equal access and rights for those living with disabilities.