Historic First: Gay Rights Declaration At United Nations

Delayed by one week, the declaration calling for the global decriminalization of homosexuality was read to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. The declaration was supported by 66 nations but not the United States.

An unprecedented declaration seeking to decriminalize homosexuality won the support of 66 countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, but opponents criticized it as an attempt to legitimize pedophilia and other “deplorable acts.”

The United States refused to support the nonbinding measure, as did Russia, China, the Roman Catholic Church and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Holy See’s observer mission issued a statement saying that the declaration “challenges existing human rights norms.” The declaration, sponsored by France with broad support in Europe and Latin America, condemned human rights violations based on homophobia, saying such measures run counter to the universal declaration of human rights.

“How can we tolerate the fact that people are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation?” said Rama Yade, the French state secretary for human rights, noting that homosexuality is banned in nearly 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least six. France decided to use the format of a declaration because it did not have the support for an official resolution. Read out by Ambassador Jorge Argüello of Argentina, the declaration was the first on gay rights read in the 192-member General Assembly itself.

An outrageous opposing statement supported by 60 (mostly Muslim) nations called the declaration an attempt to “normalize pedophilia.” The statement was sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Conference. The United States did not support that declaration either.

Openly gay New York Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell sent a letter yesterday to George Bush, Condoleezaa Rice, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama requesting they support the declaration.

“To date, over 50 countries have voiced support for the resolution. I am disappointed to learn that the United States is not among them. The United States must declare that there is no safe haven for discrimination and intolerance in this world. No individual should ever face punishment for loving someone of the same gender. I implore you to support this important human rights initiative and champion the resolution abroad. Our founding documents declare that all people were created equal and it is time that the United States lives up to that promise and serves as a model to the world.”

American diplomats weaseled out of supporting the declaration by calling its wording too broad, claiming it could be seen as an attempt by the federal government to override states’ rights on same-sex marriage. There was a contingent within the U.S. State Department that wanted to support the declaration, but “pro-family advocates” intervened to prevent that. Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch, said, “The Bush administration is trying to come up with Christmas presents for the religious right so it will be remembered.”