by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
The U.N. Human Rights Council issued its first-ever condemnation of discrimination against LGBT people in a cautiously worded declaration, which passed by a narrow margin on June 10.
In addition to condemning anti-Gay discrimination, the resolution commissions a study of discrimination against LGBT people around the world, the findings of which will be discussed by the Geneva-based council at a later meeting.
'You just witnessed a historic moment at the Human Rights Council and within the U.N. system with a landmark resolution protecting human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people,' U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told reporters after the vote.
The resolution passed with 23 votes in favor and 19 against, with three abstentions, including that of China.
The resolution was introduced by South Africa. Backers included the United States, the European Union, Brazil, and other Latin American countries.
In spite of the delicate diplomatic wording of the proposed resolution, it still went too far for many of the council's 47-member states, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Speaking on behalf of the powerful Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva said the resolution had 'nothing to do with fundamental human rights.'
'We are seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundation,' Ambassador Zamir Akram said.
Nigeria claimed the proposal went against the wishes of most Africans. A diplomat from the northwest African state of Mauritania said it was 'an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right.'
U.S. representatives strongly condemned the anti-Gay sentiments expressed by Islamic and African ambassadors.
'If you look at the history of human rights and the ever-expanding circle of who counts as human, every time that circle has expanded there have been those who have dissented and in every case they have been proven wrong over time,' Daniel Baer, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary, said after the vote.
Baer told reporters that the Obama administration had chosen a 'course of progress' on LGBT rights, both domestically and internationally.
In March, the U.S. sponsored a nonbinding declaration in favor of LGBT rights that gained the support of more than 80 countries at the U.N. This coincided with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and new administrative regulations banning discrimination against LGBT people in federal housing.
Asked what the resolution would do for Gays and Lesbians in countries that opposed it, Baer said it was a signal 'that there are many people in the international community who stand with them, and who support them, and that change will come.'
'It's a historic method of tyranny to make you feel that you are alone,' he said. 'One of the things that this resolution does for people everywhere, particularly LGBT people everywhere, is remind them that they are not alone.'
The Human Rights Council was established by the U.N.'s General Assembly in March 2006. The previous body, called the Commission on Human Rights, had been criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
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