Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Senate Consideration Of The United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

Mr. President. The Senate today is considering the ratification of an important treaty that will further strengthen the United States’ longstanding role as a beacon of human rights around the world.  I support ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and hope that this treaty, which enjoys bipartisan support, will be approved by the Senate today.


I have long been a strong supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has served to protect the rights of disabled U.S. citizens for more than two decades.  The CRPD is a natural extension of many of the core principles guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I believe that any person living with a disability, regardless of where they were born or where they reside, should be protected from discrimination and unfair treatment.


President Obama signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, and earlier this year, he submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported the CRPD to the full Senate in July, and it is right that the Senate is taking action on this important treaty before this Congress adjourns.  Current U.S. law already provides a number of protections called for under the CRPD.  The Foreign Relations Committee included in its reported treaty reservations, understandings, and a declaration which will allow the United States to be in full compliance with the treaty, without making changes to existing U.S. law.


Like President Obama, I believe this Convention serves a number of American interests, including encouraging protection of U.S. citizens and service members with disabilities who live or travel abroad, and assisting U.S. businesses by ensuring that their international counterparts are required to comply with similar laws. 


Around the world, 125 nations have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and are parties to this treaty.  Its ratification is supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and by well over 300 religious organizations, health care centers, advocates for people with disabilities, veterans’ organizations.  Disability Rights Vermont and the Vermont Center for Independent Living are among those organizations supporting ratification.  I hope all Senators will support this important treaty.  It sends the right message to the rest of the world that the United States cares about the dignity of all people.


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