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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Obama calls on UN to defend gay rights

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration called on the United Nations Human Rights Council Tuesday to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world.

“”Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who they are or who they love,”” said Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. ambassador to the HRC in Geneva, in the statement. “”The U.S. government is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence.””

The Human Rights Commission has condemned human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including rape, torture, murder and criminal sanctions.

The issue of gay rights is highly controversial in both the United States and the international community. Domestically, some U.S. religious groups see the push for gay rights as an assault on traditional marriage and other values, while in U.N.-member countries such as Pakistan and Iran homosexuality is illegal.

“”It is a really pressing issue globally that there continue to be killings on the basis of sexual orientation and persecution on that basis,”” said Suzanne Nossel, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. “”I think this will stimulate dialogue and increased recognition of the importance of the issue among governments.””

The Obama administration’s expression of support for U.N. action on the issue marks a change from George W. Bush’s presidency. His administration generally sidestepped the issue in the U.N.

Tuesday’s statement was the most recent in a series of moves by the Obama administration to show active support for gay rights, including holding that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional and moving to end the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy toward gays in the military.

Last weekend, in a joint statement with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, President Barack Obama also announced the creation of a new government position to monitor LGBT rights in the Western Hemisphere.

In the 2008 presidential election, gays were an important voting bloc for Obama. During the first two years of his presidency, many gay activists felt that he paid too little attention to their issues — a perception the administration is now seeking to change.

“”With this administration you have a strong defender of these rights, an administration that sees LGBT rights as human rights, where previously it was not an important issue or not pushed for at all,”” said Patrick Vetrell, deputy spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights advocacy group, said the U.S. is finally stepping into the role it should have held all along as a worldwide leader in promoting equal rights for LGBT individuals.

“”For those who have been denied their equality for decades, change will never come soon enough,”” Sainz said. “”But there should also be no doubt that in the past two years, more positive change for and on behalf of gay people has been made than ever before.””

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