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Religious Tolerance logo

Laws concerning homosexuals & bisexuals

U.S. vote on the 2008-DEC LGBT declaration at the UN

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

The vote by the U.S. on the 2008 declaration promoting LGBT rights:

The first UN General Assembly declaration advocating human rights for, and condemning violence against, lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender/transsexual people came up for a vote in very late 2008-DEC during the waning days of the Bush administration. Alone among major western nations, and almost alone among countries in the western hemisphere, the United States did not support the declaration; they abstained.

The American government interpreted the declaration's phrase "without distinction of any kind" as potentially impacting the right of individual U.S. states to continue to oppress and discriminate against homosexuals and bisexuals on issues like same-sex marriage, protection in accommodation, and protection in employment.

Alejandro Wolff, the deputy permanent representative, said:

"We are opposed to any discrimination, legally or politically, but the nature of our federal system prevents us from undertaking commitments and engagements where federal authorities don?t have jurisdiction." 3

According to WikiNews:

"[U.S.] Officials said signing the declaration would cause a conflict between state and federal governments because of laws already in place. American military personnel are not allowed to be openly gay, and in some states landlords and employers are allowed to discriminate [on the basis of a person's] ... sexual orientation."

"Carolyn Vadino, a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., said the refusal to sign the declaration does not mean the U.S. believes human rights violations related to sexual orientation are acceptable."

"Gay rights activists in the U.S. and around the world, however, expressed anger at the United States' decision, with one international group calling the stance 'appalling.' Former chief U.S. spokesman to the U.N. Richard Grenell said the United States' reasons for not signing the declaration were 'ridiculous,' adding that "the U.S. lack of support on this issue only dims our once bright beacon of hope and freedom for those who are persecuted and oppressed."

"Representatives around the world have also spoken out against the U.S. decision, and in support of the updated declaration. Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said the declaration was purely symbolic but that he would accept nothing less than for 'human rights apply to all people in all places at all times.' U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay discussed concerns over the countries that have not signed the document, comparing anti-gay laws to Apartheid laws and saying that stigma was to blame for unpunished violence and discrimination."

"The declaration has met opposition from several Arab and African countries, which issued a joint statement condemning the attempt at 'the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts.' One Syrian official said it would lead to more pedophilia. In many of these countries homosexuality is a criminal offense and, in seven nations, homosexuality carries a death sentence." 2

Rama Yade, the French state secretary for human rights, and Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, said at a news conference that they were: "...disappointed" that the U.S. failed to support the declaration.

Scott Long, a director at Human Rights Watch was slightly less diplomatic. He said:

"The Bush administration is trying to come up with Christmas presents for the religious right so it will be remembered."

Neil Macfarquhar of the KickingALion blog commented:

"Gay-rights advocates brought to the conference from around the world by France said just having the taboo broken on discussing the topic at the United Nations would aid their battles at home. 'People in Africa can have hope that someone is speaking for them,' said the Rev. Jide Macaulay of Nigeria." 3

Reference used:

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

  1. Peter Tatchell, "A watershed for gay rights," Guardian (UK), 2008-DEC-08, at:
  2. "International controversy over UN declaration to stop anti-homosexuality legislation," WikiNews, 2008-DEC-23, at:
  3. "In a first, gay rights are pressed at the UN,", 2008-DEC-19, at:

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Home > Transgender/Transsexual > International declarations > here

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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