UN Representative Discusses LGBT Rights

Bruce Knotts, Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO), visited Lehigh on March 29. Knotts is also chair of the UN NGO Executive Committee and a leading NGO voice on LGBT rights.

He spoke to two classes—“Sex, Gender and Jews,” which explores “how religion, gender, sexuality, race, and class intersect in the lives of Jews, with a particular focus on North America,” and “Explorations in Dialogue,” which focuses on interreligious dialogue. He also attended a reception at the Pride Center and had dinner with the Lehigh/UN Partnership Faculty Committee and Lehigh’s UN Youth Representatives.

Knotts’ advocacy focuses on five areas for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people: personal safety, education, housing, health care and employment. He noted that the United States has come a long way with marriage equality, but LGBT people in other countries face more basic problems.

“We need to remember that people in Nigeria, Russia, Uganda and others are fighting for their very lives.”

He also noted that LGBT rights aren’t just a moral issue—they’re also economic.

“If you exclude 10 percent of your population, you affect GDP,” he said. “Any society that takes a group of people and ostracizes them is not going to win the economic game.”

In addition to advocating for LGBT rights, Knotts also focuses on other transnational issues like climate change, nuclear disarmament and other human rights issues. His visit was part of the Lehigh University-United Nations Partnership.