Last week CitizenGo, an advocacy group, launched an online petition condemning UNICEF for its recent report on eliminating discrimination against children and parents based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity and asks members of the public to withdraw their support for UNICEF.
To date, there are just over 25,000 signatures on their petition. Since it was launched, I have been questioning whether I should respond to it, and if so, how? On the one hand, 25,000 is hardly a significant number when one considers the size of the world's population. And, certainly, for those who signed on, nothing I would say would likely change their opinions or force them to remove their names from the list. Wouldn't my speaking out only serve to further draw attention to their actions? Would I then inadvertently be giving this petition more notice than if I instead quietly ignored its existence?
And yet, as the daughter of someone who survived the Holocaust, I am keenly aware of what prejudice, bigotry and discrimination are. Each begins with making someone or some group of people appear "less-than." Words are powerful; they persuade and entice others to follow. If I, someone who lists one of my job responsibilities as serving as the voice of children who might otherwise not be heard here in the U.S., does not speak out now, how can I look myself in the mirror and feel anything but shame?
This is not a question of politics. UNICEF has no politics -- the only side we are on is the side of children. What is at the heart of this issue is that UNICEF is being condemned for doing its job -- standing up for the rights of ALL children. This petition is asking us to put a qualifying descriptor before the word child, instead of putting children first. If one were to take out the term sexual orientation and place any other minority group into the position paper, my reaction would be the same. This is not about gay children, Black children, Jewish children, Hispanic children, Muslim children, children with disabilities or Asian children. It is about the fact that ALL children have the right to be free from discrimination regardless of who/what they and their parents are. They are, after all, children. We are the grown-ups. Let's use our words to heal, not harm.