Religion in Society

For First Time, U.N. Council Endorses Gay Rights

| by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON -- A United Nations body has affirmed homosexual and transgender rights for the first time, proponents of a recently adopted resolution say.

The action came from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which approved in a 23-19 vote in Geneva, Switzerland, a resolution calling for a study later this year regarding discrimination and violence against people based on "their sexual orientation and gender identity," the U.N. News Service reported. The study requested by the resolution's language would encompass homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people.

The United States worked for approval of the resolution, Obama administration officials said, and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauded its passage.

The June 17 resolution "marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality," Obama said in a written statement. "The United States stands proudly with those nations that are standing up to intolerance, discrimination, and homophobia."

Describing the vote as a "historic moment, Clinton said in a written release the United States would "continue to stand up for human rights wherever there is inequality and we will seek more commitments from countries to join this important resolution."

South Africa sponsored the resolution, which gained support from not only the United States but several European and Latin American countries. Among those voting for the measure were Britain, France, Poland, Spain, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico. Japan and South Korea also backed it. 

The resolution's opponents came largely from Africa and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Those voting against the proposal included Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia.

Council members China, Zambia and Burkina Faso abstained from the vote.

Before the vote, Ositadinma Anaedu of Nigeria said 90 percent of the African people opposed the resolution, the U.N. reported. The measure disregarded the universal nature of human rights, said Anaedu, who added beliefs about sexual orientation should not be forced upon countries.

The resolution requests the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a study before the end of the year on "discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world," according to the U.N. News Service. The study also would weigh "how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

"Sexual orientation" can encompass homosexuality and bisexuality, as well as transgender status. "Gender identity" is a term that "refers to a person's innate, deeply felt psychological identification as male or female, which may or may not correspond to the person's body or designated sex at birth," according to the Human Rights Campaign, the United States' largest homosexual organization.