SA agrees to back gay rights in UN vote

2010-12-23 00:00

GAY rights advocates scored a hard-fought victory at the UN on Tuesday when member states restored a reference to sexual orientation, dropped last month from a resolution opposing the unjustified killing of minority groups.

South Africa and Colombia were among the countries they persuaded to approve the amendment.

The removal of the reference, at the urging of African and Arab countries last month, alarmed human rights advocates, who said gay people are among minority groups that need special protection from extrajudicial and other unjustified slayings.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice at the time said she was “incensed” by the change and announced she would sponsor the measure to restore the language.

The battle underscores the divide between UN members with their diverse religious and cultural sensibilities on gay rights issues and sparked something of a culture war at the international body.

Belgium, Finland and other Western nations spoke in favour of including sexual orientation. A coalition of African countries said it was “greatly alarmed” that the direct reference to sexual orientation was included, and called it an attempt “to create new rights, new standards or new groups”.

Boris Dittrich, director of the gay rights programme at Human Rights Watch, said he was “relieved” by the vote, and credited Rice with introducing the new amendment.

Mark Bromley, of the Washington-based Council for Global Equality, called the vote “an important victory”.

Rights groups worked ahead of the vote to lobby countries that had abstained earlier in hopes of getting them to approve a U.S.-sponsored amendment to restore the words “sexual orientation”.

“The council applauds the principled leadership of the United States and other like-minded countries in restoring the language and staking out a clear claim for gay men and lesbians at the United Nations,” said Bromley.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but rather reflect the views of the majority of the world’s nations.

The assembly voted 93 in favour of the U.S.’s proposal to restore the previous language, with 55 countries against and 27 abstaining. The assembly then approved the amended resolution 122 in favour, with 0 votes against, and 59 abstentions.

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