The support of President Barack Obama for the United Nations ‘statement’ calling for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality is a crucial step forward, Louis-Georges Tin, the founder and president of International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) said today.
“It is one step closer to equality between homosexuals and heterosexuals – and it is a crucial step,” Mr. Tin told UK Gay News by email this evening.
But he had a proviso: “The US must now commit itself to actively support the text, encouraging all their allies to sign it as well.
“If this commitment is given, we can gather more support and, in the medium term, it will lead to a resolution in the UN,” he predicted.
The move by President Obama is a reversal of the position taken by the Bush administration, which refused to sign onto the document when it was first circulated late last year by the French government.
When the statement was presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations last December, 66 nations – including all the member states of the European Union together with all South American counties – signed-up.
“The United States supports the UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity, Robert Wood, acting spokesman at the US State Department said late yesterday in a statement.
“[We are] pleased to join the other 66 UN member states who have declared their support of this Statement that condemns human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity wherever they occur,” he added.
“The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” Mr. Wood continued.
“As such, we join with the other supporters of this Statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora.”
According to ABC Television news, the Bush administration had argued that endorsing the declaration might force the federal government to take positions on issues left up to individual US states, like gay marriage.
However, the Obama administration appears to have a different legal interpretation, ABC’s ‘off-air’ State Department reporter Kirit Radia suggests.
The current view at the State Department is that signing onto the declaration “commits us to no legal obligations.”
And State Department officials point out that only six of the 66 signatories to the declaration have legalised gay marriage, an illustration that the endorsement does not commit anyone to do so.
“The Administration’s leadership on this issue will be a powerful rebuke of an earlier Bush Administration position that sought to deny the universal application of human rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals,” Mark Bromley, who chairs the Council for Global Equality which advocates an American foreign policy that is inclusive of gay rights, told ABC News.
The United States government is understood to have notified France of it decision to be the 67th nation to sign the statement on Tuesday. Congress was informed that evening.
Louis-Georges Tin, an academic, came up with idea for the UN Statement and has been campaigning for several years. In 2008, Mr. Tin got recognition for International Day Against Homophobia from the French government.
Rama Yade, the French Minister for Human Rights, then became involved, bringing together several non-governmental organisations to work on the project.
The UN Statement is ‘non-binding’. But Mr. Tin points out: “It remains highly symbolic … That’s why we try to reach a legally enforceable resolution. ”