Monday, March 23, 2009

Action Alert

U.S. Finally Signs U.N. Declaration on
Human Rights, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity;
Vatican Still Holds Out

On Wednesday, March 18, President Obama reversed a Bush policy by formally endorsing a United Nations draft statement calling for the recognition of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide. The Vatican opposes the declaration.

In December 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 66 of the U.N.’s 192 members in General Assembly voted to endorse the declaration. All the European Union nations voted to endorse - as did Japan, Australia, and Mexico. In opposition were 70 members in whose jurisdictions homosexuality is outlawed, including some in which homosexual acts are punishable by death.

The Vatican, which has a Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, has no vote but it voiced its opposition through Archbishop Celestino Migliore, papal nuncio to the Mission. According to the Catholic News Service report of December 12, 2008, the Archbishop said the declaration was “sad and outrageous” and represented “modern savagery that will dismantle our society from the inside out.”

What does the Declaration say that warrants that kind of language from the Vatican? The draft statement has 13 propositions. They reaffirm the principle of the universality of human rights; they include sexual orientation and gender identity in the categories of human rights; they condemn violations of human rights, violence, “extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions,” torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Certainly the Vatican can’t be opposed to those provisions. We have reproduced the statement in its entirety below.

The Nuncio said the Vatican fears that “states that do not recognize same-sex union as ‘marriage’ will be pilloried and put under pressure to do so.” Weighed against the evils perpetrated by societies against homosexuals, the Vatican explanation for its opposition is, in our view, not just lame but perverse and immoral.

As Catholics, we are calling on the Vatican to stand with Western democratic nations against injustice toward our LGBT brothers and sisters.

We urge you to write your views to Archbishop Celestino Migliore at:

25 East 39th Street
New York, NY 10016-0903
or fax him at (212) 370-9622.

The Holy See’s United Nation web address is but it has no email address.


Following is the English language text of the UN’s statement.

The United Nations Statement
on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation
and Gender Identity

We have the honour to make this statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on behalf of [. . . ]

1. We reaffirm the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, Article 1 of which proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”;

2. We reaffirm that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as set out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3. We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

4. We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

5. We are also disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses;

6. We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health;

7. We recall the statement in 2006 before the Human Rights Council by fifty-four countries requesting the President of the Council to provide an opportunity, at an appropriate future session of the Council, for discussing these violations;

8. We commend the attention paid to these issues by special procedures of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies and encourage them to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates;

9. We welcome the adoption of Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States during its 38th session in 3 June 2008;

10. We call upon all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity;

11.We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.

12. We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;

13. We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Vatican and UN on Decriminalization of Gays - Joseph O’Leary, December 2, 2008.

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