Sunday, February 1, 2009

U.N. General Assembly Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sixty-six nations at the UN General Assembly supported a groundbreaking statement in December confirming that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity.  It was the first time a statement condemning rights abuses against GLBT people was presented in the U.N. General Assembly.  The 66 countries affirmed "the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," and denounced "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice . . . because of sexual orientation or gender identity."  The statement also called for the decriminalization of gay sex, which is banned in at least 77 nations and punishable by death in at least seven of them -- Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The signatories overcame strong opposition from governments that routinely try to block UN attention to sexual orientation and gender identity. Fifty-seven nations signed an alternative statement, promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, that affirmed the "principles of non-discrimination and equality," but said universal human rights do not include "the attempt to focus on the rights of certain persons" because "the notion of orientation spans a wide range of personal choices that expand way beyond the individual's sexual interest in copulatory behavior with normal consenting adult human beings, thereby ushering in the social normalization, and possibly legitimization of many deplorable acts."

Countries that signed the pro-gay statement are Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The United States (then represented by the Bush adminstration) refused to sign the statement, saying its broad language could reach into areas that fall outside of federal jurisdiction, such as the right of each U.S. state to define marriage.  It is unknown whether the Obama administration would now support the resolution if it were to be presented anew.


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