The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty should not be controversial. It requires equal access for disabled people, and bans discrimination against them in all countries that sign on.
There is no question that the Senate should ratify it. The only issue is why it has any opponents at all.
Modeled after the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, the treaty has been ratified by 146 countries and the European Union. It has legions of supporters in the United States — veterans groups of different generations, and business and civic leaders.
It also has bipartisan roots: The George W. Bush administration participated in drafting it, and President Obama signed it. Although a number of Republicans oppose it, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) is an outspoken advocate.
So is former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who was disabled during his service in World War II. Now 91 and using a wheelchair, Mr. Dole recently made his second poignant trip to the Capitol, urging former colleagues to vote for what he called “not a Republican or a Democrat treaty.”
Two years ago, 61 senators voted to ratify it. But treaties needs 67 votes, a two-thirds majority. The treaty was opposed by 38 GOP senators, many of whom argued that it would undermine U.S. sovereignty and cede too much decision-making authority to the United Nations.
Strong opposition also came from home-schooling advocates who were alarmed by a passage in the treaty that they believe might override parents’ ability to make decisions about their own disabled children. The treaty does nothing of the sort.
The disability treaty does not trump or alter U.S. laws or those of individual states. If doubt of that remains among skeptics, the treaty’s backers in the Senate say they will add clarifying language as part of the ratification process to make sure there are no ambiguities.
Senate ratification will bring U.S. influence and innovation to other countries that are expanding access and opportunity for disabled people. This treaty isn’t about parents losing authority over their kids or the United States losing sovereignty over its citizens. It’s about a world in which disabled people can travel and thrive without facing discrimination.
That’s something we all should want. The Senate should ratify this treaty.
— Los Angeles Times