At U.S. Insistence, U.N. Text on Unjustified Executions Includes a Reference to ‘Sexual Orientation’

By Patrick Goodenough | December 22, 2010 | 5:39 AM EST

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington on Dec. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

( – Heavy lobbying by the United States and homosexual advocacy groups succeeded Tuesday in restoring language referring specifically to sexual orientation in a United Nations resolution condemning unjustified executions.

The sexual orientation phrase was present in a 2008 resolution, but when this year’s measure came up before a U.N. committee last month, a group of Islamic and African nations led efforts to remove it.

After their initiative passed by a narrow vote, the U.S. vowed to reverse the move in the weeks leading up to a vote by the full U.N. General Assembly.

That vote was scheduled for Tuesday, and the U.S. introduced an amendment inserting the words “or because of their sexual orientation” into a section of the resolution calling on member states “to ensure the effective protection of the right to life of all persons under their jurisdiction and to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including those targeted at specific groups of persons…”

Among the groups already listed are those targeted for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons, as well as refugees, people living under foreign occupation, and those targeted for “honor” reasons.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Tuesday’s vote.

“The United States introduced this language to send an unequivocal message in concert with our many international partners: No one should be killed for who they are,” she said in a statement. “Sadly, many people around the world continue to be targeted and killed because of their sexual orientation. These heinous crimes must be condemned and investigated wherever they occur.”

The U.S. “sexual orientation” amendment passed by a vote of 93-55, with 27 countries abstaining.

The full resolution was then put to a vote, passing by 122-0, with 59 abstentions.

Having succeeded in getting the amendment passed, the U.S. abstained in the second vote – evidently because of language elsewhere in the resolution that could be used to condemn drone-launched missile attacks against terror suspects along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

(In explaining its position during the committee-stage vote in November, a U.S. delegate said the U.S. recognizes “that determining what international law rules apply to any particular government action during an armed conflict is highly fact-specific and made even more difficult by the changing nature of warfare.”)

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), homosexual acts are punishable by death in five countries, all Islamic – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.

An Amnesty International report adds to that list Qatar and Nigeria’s northern states where shari’a law holds sway.

ILGA secretaries-general Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini welcomed Tuesday’s vote, describing it as “a victory over the forces which tried to push the reference to sexual orientation into oblivion one month ago.”

Those some “forces,” they said, “grotesquely mask their homophobia and transphobia by referring to the universality of the Human Rights Declaration and indecently try to include under the term ‘sexual orientation’ bestiality and pedophilia.”

During Tuesday’s session, Zimbabwe’s delegate said there was no need for the amendment.

“We cannot accept this, especially if it entails accepting such practices as bestiality, pedophilia and those other practices many societies would find abhorrent in their value systems,” said Chitsaka Chipaziwa.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow