Metro Weekly

U.S. joins other nations in declaring LGBT commitment at UN

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The United States, along with a diverse group of nations, reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against LGBT people abroad with a declaration issued Thursday during the United Nations General Assembly.

Issued by the countries that form the LGBT Core Group at the U.N. — the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy — the declaration states human rights are the birthright of every human being, and LGBT people “must enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.” 

“We hereby commit ourselves to working together with other States and civil society to make the world safer, freer and fairer for LGBT people everywhere,” the document states, adding that they will tackle LGBT discrimination globally through concerted U.N. action.

Appearing at an LGBT Ministerial event held Thursday at the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City prior to the issuing of the declaration, Secretary of State John Kerry said their meeting, which Kerry described as a historic first for the U.N., sends a compelling message to LGBT people around the globe.

“Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights, which are at the foundation of American foreign policy, and I think the foreign policy of most of our colleagues, if not all of our colleagues here,” Kerry said. “We all know that as societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, and they become partners, all of whom are joined together by common values and common interests.”

While there is much to celebrate about the advancement of LGBT equality, Kerry said more must be done as long as people continue to be persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“[T]his moment has to be more than a moment to simply celebrate how far we have come, or the historic nature of this particular event,” Kerry said. “When people continue to be harassed, arrested or even murdered simply because of who they are or who they love or what they believe, how their lives are organized and structured, then we have to recommit to our work together. In too many places around the world, LGBT persons are still punished for simply exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Noting that the Global Equality Fund, which seeks to advance LGBT rights through a coalition of governments and companies, has allocated $7 million in more than 50 countries since its launch in December 2011, Kerry announced an additional $1 million contribution from the Netherlands at Thursday’s event. 

“As we think about our work ahead, we would do well to remember the fundamental challenge of the United Nations. Nearly 70 years ago, this body was created, quote, ‘to promote social progress and better standards of life, in larger freedom,'” Kerry continued. “There are few areas where I think our task is so clear, and what we need to do is make sure that we are working for that larger freedom for all people, and for the rights and the dignity of LGBT persons around the world.”

The event and Kerry’s remarks came the same day controversy continues to brew over Russia’s anti-LGBT law prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” as the Winter Olympics draw closer. A top Olympic official sparked new outrage Thursday when he told the Associated Press the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was satisfied athletes and spectators would not face discrimination in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 winter games.

According to Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, the committee has received written assurances Russia will respect the Olympic Charter prohibiting discrimination.

In response to Killy’s remarks, the United States’ largest LGBT-rights organization accused the IOC of abandoning LGBT Russians. “If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. 

[Photo: Secretary of State John Kerry participates in an LGBT Ministerial Event in New York City. Credit: U.S. Department of State.]

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