Society

U.S. Endorses UN Declaration on Homosexuality

| by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) ---The Obama administration announced March 18 its
support for a United Nations declaration urging the global
decriminalization of homosexuality three months after the Bush
administration refused to endorse it.

The news, reported by the
Associated Press, marked a reversal in the United States' position on a
non-binding measure considered by the U.N. General Assembly Dec. 18. At
that time, 66 countries backed the barrier-breaking declaration, while
more than 50 opposed it and the remainder of the 192 members abstained,
according to The New York Times.

"The United States supports the
U.N.'s statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender
identity and is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who
have declared their support of the statement," State Department
spokesman Robert Wood said, according to AP.

"The United
States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human
rights abuses around the world," Wood said. "As such, we join with
other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind
countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all
people in all appropriate international fora."

In December,
officials of the Bush administration said it opposed the proclamation
as too broad, charging it might be seen as an effort to abrogate
states' rights on such issues as "same-sex marriage," according to The
Times. The declaration says in part, "We urge States to ensure that
human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity
are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to
justice."

"We are opposed to any discrimination, legally or
politically, but the nature of our federal system prevents us from
undertaking commitments and engagements where federal authorities don't
have jurisdiction," Alejandro Wolff, the deputy permanent U.S.
representative to the U.N., was quoted by The Times as saying in
December.

But after an inter-agency review, the Obama
administration decided the declaration would not commit the U.S. to any
"legal obligations," Wood was quoted as saying in AP.

The Times
said the December action marked the first time a "homosexual rights"
declaration had been read in the General Assembly.

In addition
to the U.S., other U.N. members that declined to endorse the
declaration were the Vatican, China, Russia and members of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference, The Times reported.

In a
Dec. 18 written statement, the Vatican said it opposes criminal
penalties for homosexuality and violence against homosexuals. The
declaration, however, "goes well beyond" those issues, it said. The
classifications of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" used in
the document "find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in
international law," the Vatican said.

In addition to France, the
supporters of the declaration in December included the other 26 members
of the European Union, as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Israel,
Japan and Mexico, according to news reports.

Seventy U.N.
members have laws against homosexuality, according to AP. The death
penalty exists for homosexuality in seven countries, Bloomberg News
reported. They are Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan,
United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

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