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Religious Tolerance logo

Laws concerning homosexuals & bisexuals

Organization of American States &
United Nations declarations: 2008

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"GLBT" is a common acronym for Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual and transgender/transsexual persons.

2008-JUN-03: Organization of American States' declaration passed:

The 34 countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) reached a consensus on homophobia and transphobia by approving a resolution titled: "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity." The document, presented by the Brazillian delegation, states:
That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;

That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;

CONSIDERING that the OAS Charter proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;

REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights; and

TAKING NOTE with concern acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,


1. To express concern about acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. To request that the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) include on its agenda, before the thirty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

3. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-ninth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the resources allocated in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources. 1

The consensus reached by the OAS is particularly remarkable because some of its 34 countries are in the Caribbean and of English heritage. They still criminalize sexual activity between persons of the same sex.

2008-DEC-18: U.N. declaration discussed:

Louis-Georges Tin, is the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). He lobbied the French government to take the lead in tabling a declaration at the UN. Member organizations of the global IDAHO network, and other groups then petitioned their individual governments to support it.

On 2008-DEC-18, the Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, was presented to the United Nations General Assembly. France chose to use a declaration because there was insufficient support for a resolution.

The Vatican, as a city state and member of the UN, criticized major parts of the declaration. They did favor the decriminalization of homosexual behavior. However, like Muslim states in the past, they objected to the inclusion in the declaration of the terms sexual orientation and gender identity. The Vatican's main concern appears to be that recognition of these terms might eventually lead to an ending of all forms of discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. The Vatican promotes decriminalization, and calls for an end to "unjust discrimination" and violence against such persons. However they continue to promote other types of discrimination, so that homosexuals and transgender persons continue to receive of less than full human rights. For example, they advocate and enforce their exclusion from seminaries and the prohibition of same-sex marriage.

Rama Yade, the French state secretary for human rights, noting that homosexuality is criminalized in almost 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least six, said: "How can we tolerate the fact that people are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation?" 2

The representative of the Vatican testified before the Council:

"The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the 'Declaration on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity' - presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008 -- to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them."

"At the same time, the Holy See notes that the wording of this Declaration goes well beyond the abovementioned and shared intent."

"In particular, the categories sexual orientation and gender identity, used in the text, find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law. If they had to be taken into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards."

"Despite the Declaration's rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons, the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms."

"The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them." 3

The official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano stated that the use of the terms sexual orientation and gender identity "... imply that sexual identity is defined only by culture." The newspaper suggested that their use in the declaration is part of an attempt to "... equate same-sex unions with marriage and to give homosexual couples the chance to adopt or 'procreate' children." 4

The paper expressed concern that the declaration would endanger "other human rights," such as "liberty of expression ... thought, conscience and religion." They suggest that it might limit the freedom of speech of religious groups who want to teach that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. 4

References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08): Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity," Organization of  American States, 2008-JUN-3, at:
  2. "In a first, gay rights are pressed at the UN,", 2008-DEC-19, at:
  3. "Holy See  on UN declaration on homosexuality," Zenit, 2008-DEC-18, at:
  4. "Vatican calls for homosexuality to be decriminalized," National Catholic Reporter, 2009-JAN-09, at:

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Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-FEB-13
Latest update: 2011-JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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