The Obama Administration’s Historical Step
27 03 2009
Washington – The United States is joining 66 other United Nations member states in condemning the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, the official website of the US Department of State informs. The statement released March 18 was made by Robert Wood, State Department acting spokesman during the press briefing, where he noted that ”The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world.” “We will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora.”” The UN Gen. Assembly Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity is the first and accordingly, the unique document of such rank that was presented to the UN Gen. Assembly on December 18, 2008, by France and was backed by the European Union. For our consideration, the statement was signed by Georgia as well, which was among those 66 states that joined (Georgia and Armenia were the only CIS states that supported the document.). Though it is not legally binding, the statement, however, is extremely authoritative and important document. Proceeding from the basic principles of 60-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement calls on member states and international human rights institutions “to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.” The document urges all states to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity ”may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.” It is note-worthy that 70 UN member nations outlaw homosexuality, and according to some countries’ legislations, homosexual acts are still punishable by death. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in December 18, 2008, remarks to a high-level U.N. panel discussion on human rights, said that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation “are increasingly recognized as anachronistic and as inconsistent both with international law and the traditional values of dignity, inclusion and respect for all.” “Those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, those who are transgender, transsexual or intersex, are full and equal members of the human family and are entitled to be treated as such,” Pillay said. After the Bush Administration’s refusal to sign the UN statement in December, the new American initiative speaks about much. Before this historical fact, during her visit to Brussels, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton told young European leaders during a March 6 town hall meeting that “the persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something that we take very seriously.” She condemned human rights abuses against homosexuals, and called for “a recognition that human rights are the inalienable right of every person.” The press briefing at the US Department of State and its official statement of March 18 was immediately welcomed by Amnesty International USA which spread the press-release applauding the important event. For additional information, see Robert Wood’s opening statement on the US Department of State’s website.