Sex and Gender Clinic Blasts Iran President's Anti-Gay Remarks

Sex and Gender Clinic Blasts Iran President's Anti-Gay Remarks
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September 26, 2007 (NEW YORK) – Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic condemns the comments made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Monday’s World Leaders Forum at Columbia University. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s claim that Iran has no homosexuals is both absurd and dangerous.
 “Persecution against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Iranians is running rampant under President Ahmadinejad’s regime,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, who directs the Clinic. “The state-sanctioned brutal campaign against LGBT Iranians belies Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement that LGBT Iranians do not exist. Members of Iran’s LGBT community are very much alive, but many live in daily fear for their lives,” she added.
Iran’s constitution provides no protection for LBGT Iranians, unlike in the United States, where the Supreme Court recognized in its landmark 2003 decision, Lawrence v. Texas, that, at a minimum, the U.S. Constitution prohibits criminalizing sodomy. Iranians discovered to be gay have suffered intense discrimination, torture and even state-sponsored execution.
“Reports of atrocities endured by LGBT Iranians highlight the importance of mechanisms in our legal system to provide refuge for those escaping horrific treatment,” said Jonathan A. Lieberman ’08, a student advocate who has worked on immigration issues for the Clinic. This is exactly why sexual orientation-based persecution is a recognized basis for asylum in the United States. Conditions such as those under Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government are what many LGBT asylum seekers are fleeing,” he said.
“The president’s remarks should bring attention to the contempt and disregard that the Iranian government holds for this segment of its populace,” Goldberg added.
Officially sanctioned hostility toward LGBT individuals is not limited to Iran. This spring, Clinic students secured asylum for a lesbian from Turkmenistan who feared persecution in her home country. In New York City, the Clinic assisted a transgender woman who was assaulted by a police officer.
“It is easy to label Mr. Ahmadinejad an extremist, but we must not ignore the persecution that the LGBT community suffers even in more moderate countries,” said Amos Blackman ’08, a student advocate in the Clinic. “Even in the U.S., where conditions for the LGBT community are far better than those in Iran, people still suffer from extreme forms of discrimination because of their sexual identity, including killings, violence, and hate crimes.”
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic began in September 2006. Clinic students to date have put in more than 4,000 hours on a range of projects involving issues of sexuality and gender law.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law and human rights law with pioneering work in intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.