What a difference an election makes: The U.S. supports LGBT rights at the U.N.
February 20, 2009
This week in Geneva U.S. diplomats participated in preparatory meetings for the upcoming 2009 World Conference Against Racism. The conference, commonly referred to as “Durban II,” will be held in Geneva on April 20th - 24th. At the preparatory meetings, a proposal was introduced to condemn “all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on sexual orientation.” We are happy to report that the U.S. took the floor to support the proposal. While ultimately the provision was not included, this marks the second time since President Obama has taken office that the U.S. has supported LGBT rights at the U.N. Last month, in a U.N. committee on non-governmental organizations, the U.S. voted in favor of giving “consultative status” to an LGBT group from Brazil. Consultative status gives non-governmental organizations crucial access the UN system and allows them to deliver oral and written reports at U.N. meetings. This status provides LGBT groups with a forum to speak out against the violence and discrimination faced by our community around the world. Unfortunately, achieving consultative status has been extremely difficult for LGBT groups. Although the U.S. voted in favor, the committee voted 8-6 against the Brazilian LGBT group. This vote and the failure of the Durban proposal demonstrate the importance of U.S. involvement in LGBT issues at the U.N. This is a stark contrast to where we were in December, when Bush refused to allow the U.S. to join a coalition of over 66 countries signing on to a non-binding resolution to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights around the world. We applaud this new direction by the U.S. on international LGBT issues. President Obama’s willingness to engage the community of nations on issues of equality and fairness for the LGBT community is certainly a welcome and necessary change. What a difference an election makes.