South Dakota's senior senator, Tim Johnson, has a significant disability. Johnson has difficulty speaking and gets around in a motorized chair. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, he enjoys equal access to public accommodations and protections against job discrimination.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls on all nations to treat citizens with disabilities as fairly and respectfully as we treat Senator Johnson under the ADA.
So is that why Senator John Thune and 37 other Republicans voted against it yesterday?
"[D]iscrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person," reads the treaty. Does Senator Thune really disagree with that statement? Has Senator Thune become a liberal relativist who thinks that holding the world to our standards of human rights is cultural imperialism?
Maybe Senator Thune was listening to the noise from Rick Santorum and homeschool activists who think the U.N. would use this treaty to force their kids into public school. Maybe he read Article 31 on data collection and thought he needed to play Fox Mulder against shadowy global conspirators.
Or maybe he was just being a jerk, flipping the bird at disabled veteran and former Senator Bob Dole, who rolled to the Senate in his wheelchair to remind his colleagues of the importance of this bill, and voting against human rights protections that even noted human rights abusers Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Saudi Arabia could not say no to.
America should lead the world in the protection of human rights. Senator Thune apparently wants to lead the world in hysteria and discrimination.