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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
U.S. calls on U.N. to act on LGBT rights, Vatican is outragedls safer for students
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U.S. calls on U.N. to act on LGBT rights, Vatican is outraged

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Obama administration has issued a call for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council to address discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

The U.S. declaration was made at the Human Rights Council's headquarters in Geneva on March 22.

Two days later, the U.S. statement was condemned by the Vatican.

The U.S. declaration expresses 'concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity' and calls on counties 'to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions, and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.'

In addition to the U.S., 85 countries signed the statement. According to the U.S. State Department, Columbia and Slovenia also took a leading role in assembling this coalition.

'We are very concerned that individuals continue to be killed, arrested, and harassed around the world because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,' said Suzanne Nossel, deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations. 'This statement sends a strong message from across the globe that such abuses should not be tolerated.'

Nossel added that the U.S. was proud to be taking a leading role in promoting the idea that 'Gay rights are human rights,' echoing previous statements by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On March 24, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, condemned the U.S. declaration.

'People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex,' Tomasi said in his statement.

'When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized - and worse, they are vilified, and prosecuted.'

The Vatican also opposed a 2008 United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the universal decriminalization of same-sex relations, claiming it would lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

In his March 24 statement, Tomasi reaffirmed the Vatican's 'deeply held belief that human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage.'

Protecting the rights of LGBT people has often been a controversial issue at the U.N., as Tomasi's statement indicates.

With its condemnation of the U.S. declaration, the Vatican put itself on the same side as Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries that actively persecute their LGBT residents.

Russia and China also failed to sign the document, although they did not express open opposition to it.

Same-sex relations are legal in both countries, but both governments shy away from broad statements about human rights because of international criticism of their own alleged human rights abuses.

The White House issued a statement on March 22 noting that 'President Obama believes that advancing the human rights of minorities and the marginalized is a fundamental American value.'

The White House statement went on to say that the U.N. declaration was the result of 'frank, and at times difficult, conversations about the human rights of LGBT persons with governments from around world.'

'The president is proud of the work we have done to build international consensus on this critical issue and is committed to continuing our determined efforts to advance the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,' the White House concluded.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a comment on the declaration, saying it was 'a historic moment' that highlighted U.S. commitment to LGBT rights.

'This statement is an example of America's commitment to human rights through dialogue, open discussion, and frank conversation with countries we don't always agree with on every issue,' Clinton said in her statement.

'In Geneva, our conversations about the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals with countries where sexual orientation is not only stigmatized, but criminalized, are helping to advance a broader and deeper global dialogue about these issues.'

Clinton promised that 'we will not rest until every man, woman, and child is able to live up to his or her potential free from persecution or discrimination of any kind.'

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