Wednesday, 18 March 2009

US formally endorses UN gay rights statement

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is formally endorsing a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.

[Unzipped: endorsed by Armenia too]

The move was the administration's latest step in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the U.N. General Assembly in December.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the administration would endorse the declaration.

AFP: Washington will join 66 countries, including all the members of European Union, in backing the measure put forth by France in December, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"The United States supports the UN's statements on human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity, Wood told reporters.

"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," Wood told reporters.

"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," he added.


nazarian said...

I'm surprised that Bush was against it. While it is not a crime to be gay in this country, I guess he did not want to make close allies like the Saudis unhappy.

But I think the human rights of being free to be who you are are far more imprortant than the sensitivities of some allies.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Nazarian, I think the main reason was simply that the Republicans are more unilateralist than the Democrats. Secondly, the argument about not signing such statements was that they believed that domestic legislation should deal with such issues and not bodies such as the U.N.

Anyway, while I agree with the issue of domestic legislation safeguarding the rights of citizens, there's no doubts such statements of intent on a global scale are important. In a sense they set the agenda for the present time in much the same way as the MDGs do.

nazarian said...

Onnik, you are right. In this country we perceive the need for sovereignty quite painfully. The GOP do so more than the Democrats. Even though the UN is heavily influenced by the US, some Republicans actually think that infringes upon the sovereignty of the United States.

Even inside the US, the person's sexual orientation is not a federally protected class. In the majority of the states it is (i.e. one cannot be discriminated against for his/her sexual orientation) but there are still states that do not recognize it. These are mainly in the Bible Belt - the less developed Southern states within the Bible Belt (

Ani said...

Even though the Republicans' election motto was "Country First" they favor states' rights more than the Democrats, especially when the issues involve what they perceive as individual liberties (although usually to the detriment of those seeking those liberties, like gay rights issues). This stance also defines the debate on gun control, which is why when someone gets shot with a gun in New York City (New York State has strict gun control laws), that gun is usually found to have originated in (say) South Carolina. Sarah Palin is a perfect example of a states' right defender.

States' rights made much more sense 230 years ago, when states were more like little countries (guess Alaska still is), but since there are no enforced borders and people move more freely and without regard for states' ideology, those rights are confusing and good mainly for lawyers' careers.