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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 24, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 52
UN restores protections for Gays to resolution against unjust executions
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UN restores protections for Gays to resolution against unjust executions

Major victory for US ambassador

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The UN General Assembly voted on December 21 to restore language protecting Gays and Lesbians to a resolution against arbitrary executions.

The vote to restore the term 'sexual orientation' to the resolution was 93 in favor, 55 opposed, and 27 abstaining.

The General Assembly then voted to pass the resolution with the protections for Gays and Lesbians by a vote of 122 in favor, none opposed, and 59 abstentions.

'Today, the United Nations General Assembly has sent a clear and resounding message that justice and human rights apply to all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation,' US Ambassador Susan Rice said December 21 in a statement.

The General Assembly vote reversed a previous decision by the UN Human Rights Committee to strip 'sexual orientation' from the resolution.

That action had been taken last month at the instigation of delegates from the North African countries of Morocco and Mali, where same-sex relations are illegal. It was supported by a coalition of African and Asian countries.

By a narrow 79-70 vote, the reference to sexual orientation was removed from the annual resolution for the first time in 10 years.

The decision to restore protections for Gays and Lesbians was seen as a major victory for US Ambassador Rice. She said she was 'incensed' by the decision to strip 'sexual orientation' from the resolution, and committed herself to a campaign to put it back in.

'We are going to fight to restore the reference to sexual orientation,' Rice said. 'We

re going to stand firm on this basic principle. And we intend to win.'

Rice used the occasion of the UN

s International Human Rights Day celebration on December 10, to deliver a major address on the issue.

'For countries that voted in the Committee to keep the reference to sexual orientation, we thank you. For countries that haven

t yet done so, we urge you to join us. And for countries that have supported this reference in the past but changed course this year, we urge you to stand again with us and with all vulnerable people around the world at risk of violence,' Rice said.

Rice combined public statements with behind-the-scenes negotiating to assemble the votes needed to restore 'sexual orientation

to the resolution.

'The US built a broad coalition of partners and together we galvanized member states to support this effort - and to win,' she said.

Rice was assisted by the representatives of several European and Latin American countries.

During the debate, Belgium, representing the European Union, said the restoration 'significantly improves' the text of the resolution.

The Nordic countries

joint representative said they were 'deeply disappointed' by the removal of the term 'sexual orientation,' and added, 'No one should be killed because of their sexual orientation.'

Argentina and Mexico also spoke in support of restoring 'sexual orientation' to the resolution, saying, 'We

re not demanding that this group enjoy greater protections,' but, 'every year there are people executed for reasons of their sexual orientation.'

The Canadian ambassador offered an amendment to include 'gender identity' in the text, but that was not adopted.

An outside lobbying effort was also launched by the Unitarian Universalist UN LGBT Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Project, which hosted its second UN consultation meeting on December 13,

US officials were gleeful at the result.

Pres. Obama said the vote 'marks an important moment in the struggle for civil and human rights.'

'Protecting Gays and Lesbians from state-sponsored discrimination is not a special right, it is a human right,' the White House press office said. 'Today

s vote in the United Nations marks an important moment in the struggle for civil and human rights. The time has come for all nations to redouble our efforts to end discrimination and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people.'

'The United States introduced this language to send an unequivocal message in concert with our many international partners: No one should be killed for who they are,' US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Noting that 'many people around the world continue to be targeted and killed because of their sexual orientation,' Clinton added that 'these heinous crimes must be condemned and investigated wherever they occur.'

Boris Dittrich, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, said he was 'relieved' by the vote, and credited Rice with introducing the new amendment.

'The resolution does justice to Gays, Lesbians and Transgender people in countries where they are targeted for assaults and killings,' Dittrich said. 'Hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity must be countered just like hate crimes on the basis of race or religion.'

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