UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States succeeded on Tuesday in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.
Western delegations were disappointed last month when the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to slayings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.
The committee’s move also had outraged human rights activists and groups that lobby for gay rights. Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said at the time that it was a “step backwards” and “extremely disappointing.”
The 192-nation General Assembly approved a U.S. amendment to the resolution that restored the reference to sexual orientation with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amended resolution was then adopted with 122 yes votes, one against and 62 abstentions.
After ensuring that violence against gays would be back in the resolution by voting in favor its own amendment, Washington sent an ambiguous signal about its support for the overall declaration by joining 61 other nations in abstaining.
It was not immediately clear why Washington withheld its support. The only country that voted against the resolution was Saudi Arabia.
President Barack Obama applauds countries that supported the amendment, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
“Protecting gays and lesbians from state-sponsored discrimination is not a special right, it is a human right,” Gibbs said, calling the U.N. vote an important moment in the struggle for civil and human rights.
The main opposition to the U.S. amendment came from Muslim and African nations, which had led the push to delete the reference to sexual preference from the resolution last month.
The General Assembly passes resolutions condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and other killings every two years. The 2008 declaration had included an explicit reference to killings committed because of the victims’ sexual preferences.
In addition to slayings over sexual orientation, the resolution specifies many other types of violence — killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons and killings of refugees, indigenous people and other groups.
Prior to the vote, Zimbabwe’s U.N. Ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa slammed the U.S. amendment, saying there was no need to refer explicitly to sexual orientation.
“We will not have it foisted on us,” he said. “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.
“In our view, what adult people do in their private capacity by mutual consent does not need agreement or rejection by governments, save where such practices are legally proscribed,” Chitsaka said.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice welcomed the adoption of the amended resolution.
“Today, the United Nations General Assembly has sent a clear and resounding message that justice and human rights apply to all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation,” she said in a statement.
Her views were echoed by HRW’s Boris Dittrich.
“We are relieved by the result of the vote,” he said in a statement. “Countries that tried to roll back crucial protections for gay and lesbian people have been defeated.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Walsh