Catholic Law Professor Confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Courtesy of Catholic University

By Renee Rasmussen

Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University, was confirmed by the United States Senate as the next Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor on September 18th. Destro’s role in the State Department is  “promoting democracy, civic and religious freedom around the world.”

Destro has been a member of Catholic’s faculty since 1982 and, during his time here, he founded the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.

During his career, Destro served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights from 1983-1989, and focused on areas of discrimination based on disability, national origin, and religion. He also served as General Counsel to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights from 1977-1982, as well as Special Counsel to the Ohio Attorney General and the Ohio Secretary of State on election law matters from 2004-2006. 

Destro was confirmed into his new position by the Senate by a 49 to 44 margin. His appointment was controversial due to his stance on gay rights and role of religion in foreign affairs. 

Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy wrote a letter to the Senate stating  Destro “criticized nondiscrimination protections that allowed transgender people to use restrooms and other facilities that correspond to their gender identity” and “called for ‘trench warfare’ with the LGBTQ community.” Stacy urged the vote against Destro, reminding Democrats of Destro’s opposition to the Equality Act.

“Mr. Destro’s record of disrespect toward the LGBTQ community disqualifies him from being appointed to lead our efforts to protect the human rights of LGBTQ people and others around the world,” said Stacy in an article from the Washington Blade.

During his confirmation hearing for this position last March, Destro was questioned by Senate Democrats over the role of religion in foreign affairs, as well as his stance on gay rights. Stacy urged the vote against Destro, reminding Democrats of Destro’s opposition to the Equality Act. However during his confirmation, Destro “pledged to support the State Department’s current LGBTQ programming.”

 Destro commented that from his past experience he has noticed that many in the State Department, “have had a hard time dealing with the issue of religion, and that’s one of the issues [he’d] like to bring to their attention.”

The Catholic community is excited about Destro’s future as the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.“This appointment is a unique opportunity for [Destro] to work at the highest levels of our nation’s government to protect the freedoms of all people, and in particular of those on the margins of societies around the globe,” said John Garvey, Catholic University’s President to Catholic News Agency.

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