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UN General Assembly Overturns Anti-gay Vote

The United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 21 overturned its recent vote
that removed a reference to sexual orientation from a resolution against
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The resolution urges member states to protect the right to life of all
people and calls on governments to investigate killings based on
discriminatory grounds. For the past 10 years, the document included
sexual orientation in a list of discriminatory grounds on which killings
are often based.

In November, a General Assembly committee composed of all U.N. member
nations removed the gay reference in a vote of 79 to 70 with 17
abstentions and 26 absences. That led to an intense campaign, headed by
the United States, to reinsert the reference.

The reinsertion vote was 93 to 55 with 27 abstentions and 17 absences.
Then, the vote to pass the full resolution with the gay language back in
place was 122 to 1 with 62 abstentions.

The document is believed to be the only UN resolution ever to reference
“sexual orientation.”

Most opposition to acknowledging anti-gay killings came from Arab, Islamic
and African nations, whose representatives complained that they don’t know
what “sexual orientation” means or that sexual behavior is an
inappropriate basis upon which to grant official recognition or human
rights protections.

Notably, South Africa and Rwanda reversed their previous votes against gay
inclusion.

“Countries that tried to roll back crucial protections for gay and lesbian
people have been defeated,” said Boris Dittrich, acting director of Human
Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. “The resolution does justice to gays,
lesbians and transgender people in countries where they are targeted for
assaults and killings simply because they love someone of the same sex or
because they are transgender.”

The office of President Barack Obama’s press secretary issued a statement
that said: “President Obama applauds those countries that supported the
amendment offered by the United States to ensure that ‘sexual orientation’
remains covered by the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial, summary
and arbitrary execution. Killing people because of their sexual
orientation cannot be rationalized by diverse religious values or varying
regional perspectives. Killing people because they are gay is not
culturally defensible — it is criminal. While today’s adoption of an
inclusive resolution is important, so too are the conversations that have
now begun in capitals around the world about inclusion, equality and
discrimination. Protecting gays and lesbians from state-sponsored
discrimination is not a special right, it is a human right. Today’s vote
in the United Nations marks an important moment in the struggle for civil
and human rights. The time has come for all nations to redouble our
efforts to end discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people.”

The United States’ former ambassador to Romania, Michael Guest, who now
works with the LGBT-oriented Council for Global Equality, called the U.S.
campaign to rescue the gay language “remarkable.”

“The United States took a very principled position, and our diplomats
worked very hard at the U.N. and in capitals around the world to explain
to other countries why this is an important human rights cause,” Guest
said. “The State Department and the White House should be commended.”

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
said: “We want to celebrate the victory over the forces which tried to
push the reference to sexual orientation into oblivion one month ago (and
which) still refuse, in theory and in practice, to acknowledge that human
rights are truly for all, LGBTI people included, and — what is perhaps
worse — grotesquely mask their homophobia and transphobia by referring to
the universality of the Human Rights Declaration and indecently try to
include under the term ‘sexual orientation’ bestiality and pedophilia.”

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