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The United States Government Declares Support for the UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Robert Wood, acting department spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, issued a statement on March 18, 2009 that the United States endorses the UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity.

The statement, sponsored by France, was brought to the United Nations General Assembly in December 2008. The UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity denounces murder, torture, arbitrary arrest, and “deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health” based on sexual orientation or gender identity and advocates to “promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”[1] It also seeks to bring an end to all criminal penalties against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Currently there are 70 UN member states which criminalize homosexuality, several of whose penalties include execution.)
 
“The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” Wood stated, “As such, we join with the 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.”[2]
 
Sixty-six nations signed the statement, including six countries in Africa (Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Mauritius, Sao Tome, and Principe) and all of the European Union member states. Notably absent are the members of Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Holy See.
 
In fact, many nations actively opposed the statement. This position was expressed in a counter-statement, which was introduced to the General Assembly last December by Syria and endorsed by 57 nations.[3] Syria’s statement expressed concerns that the protections included the statement might “usher the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts” and encouraged states to recognize the so-called traditional family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society.”
 
Advocates for gay and lesbian rights welcomed the announcement of support from the United States. Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said, “The U.S. has finally stepped up to help right this wrong.” Carey continued, “This is long past overdue and we are encouraged by the signal it sends that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will now be considered human rights.”[4]
 
 


[1]“Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 19 December 2008,  accesse 21 April 2009,  http://www.droitslgbt2008.fr/documents/?mode=download&id=2.
[2] Robert Wood, “UN Statement on ‘Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity,’” U.S. Department of State, Press Release published 18 March 2009, accessed 21 April 2009 http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/03/120509.htm.
[3]“Statements on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” New York Monitor: International Service for Human Rights, 24 December 2008, 8, accessed 4 February 2009, http://www.ishr.ch/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=&task=doc_download&gid=212.
[4] “Task Force applauds Obama administration for signing U.N. declaration on ‘Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity’,” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Press Release published 18 March 2009, accessed 21 April 2009, http://www.thetaskforce.org/press/releases/pr_031809.

 

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