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U.N. resolution to globalize 'gay' rights

Homosexual-rights groups are mobilizing support for a landmark United Nations resolution that would classify abuse on the basis of sexual orientation as a human rights violation.

U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting

Last year, when the resolution first was introduced to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the San Francisco-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, or IGLHRC, called it “a historic opportunity to advance [homosexual] issues in international human-rights law.”

The IGLHRC said the U.N. Commission on Human Rights Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Human Rights is the “first one in the history of the United Nations that specifically, and unambiguously, spells out that abuses on the basis of sexual orientation are human rights violations.”

The Human Rights Commission is scheduled to meet March 15 to April 25 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“This resolution would be the first United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution to connect the full range of human rights to sexual orientation, and to condemn discrimination on its basis,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s executive director said.

IGLHRC called last April’s introduction of the resolution by Brazil “unexpected.”

After prolonged debate, the 53-member commission, chaired by Libya, voted to postpone further discussion on the resolution to this year’s session.

At the 2003 session, Pakistan distributed a memo to commission members on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference which stated the “resolution directly contradicts the tenets of Islam and other religions,” and its approval would be “a direct insult to the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world.”

Last year’s resolution, according to the IGLHRC, had the support of Canada, New Zealand and several European Union countries.

This year, key countries the homosexual-rights groups are urged to lobby include South Africa, India, Costa Rica and the United States.

Susana Fried, IGLHRC program director, says the resolution is “a key building block in the global understanding of human rights.”

“It could be invoked to call on states to end all discrimination based on sexual orientation in economic and social rights, such as access to health, education and housing,” she said.

The resolution, IGLHRC asserted, also would “encourage governments to take a more active role to prevent discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation such as murder, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. It would help to ensure the protection of victims and help bring perpetrators of violence against sexual minorities to justice.”

The group also said it would “provide activists with another tool to hold states accountable to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered] people.”

However, some opponents contend the remedy proposed by the resolution will have worse societal implications than the alleged disease, “homophobia.”

“It is highly likely that gay-rights advocates will use this resolution, if it passes, to advance their agenda to legalize gay marriage and to create hate-crimes legislation,” contended A. Scott Loveless, associate professor of law at the World Family Policy Center at Brigham Young University.

“In their quest to legitimize homosexuality, many of these countries have actually limited some of our most fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech,” Loveless said.

In Canada, provincial human-rights commissions already have penalized people for discrimination based on sexual orientation. A court in Saskatchewan upheld a 2001 ruling that fined a man for submitting a newspaper ad containing citations of four Bible verses that address homosexuality. Three years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission penalized printer Scott Brockie $5,000 for refusing to print letterhead for a homosexual advocacy group. Brockie argued that his Christian beliefs compelled him to reject the group’s request.

Last year, Peoria, Ill., traditionally seen as America’s bellwether town, joined a growing list of Illinois cities banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The city council voted 8-3 Tuesday to amend its human-rights ordinance to protect homosexuals against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Similar ordinances have been adopted in Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur, Normal and Springfield.

Also last year, the California state Assembly approved a bill outlawing discrimination against job applicants and renters based on their “perceived gender.” The measure broadened California’s housing and employment laws to cover transsexuals, transvestites and others who do not fit traditional male or female “stereotypes.”

‘Changing attitudes and behavior ‘

The draft resolution presented last year by Brazil, titled, “Human Rights and Sexual Orientation,” began by appealing to a number of international human rights conventions. It concludes with:

“Reaffirming that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein without distinction of any kind,

“Affirming that human rights education is a key to changing attitudes and behavior and to promoting respect for diversity in societies, [the Human Rights Commission],

“1. Expresses deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation;

“2. Stresses that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings, that the universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question and that the enjoyment of such rights and freedoms should not be hindered in any way on the grounds of sexual orientation;

“3. Calls upon all States to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation;

“4. Notes the attention given to human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation by the special procedures in their reports to the Commission on Human Rights, as well as by the treaty monitoring bodies, and encourages all special procedures of the Commission, within their mandates, to give due attention to the subject;

“5. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to pay due attention to the violation of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation;

“6. Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its sixtieth session under the same agenda item.”

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