Last edited: February 14, 2005

U.S. May Abstain from Historic U.N. Vote, April 24, 2003

By Ahmar Mustikhan, / Network

The United States is set to abstain from a historic vote at the United Nations condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation, two human rights groups said on Wednesday.

The draft resolution, introduced by Brazil, expresses “deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights all over the world against persons on grounds of their sexual orientation” and calls on relevant U.N. human rights bodies to “give due attention” to these violations.

The resolution is being offered at the 59th session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, underway in Geneva.

Amnesty International said the U.S. government was leaning toward abstaining. “Our representative in Washington, D.C., attended a State Department briefing Tuesday where we learned about the decision,” Michael Hefling, director of the group’s OUTfront program on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights, told the on Wednesday.

The briefing said the United States would vote against an Egyptian resolution of “no action” on the Brazil resolution, “but would abstain from the Brazil resolution itself,” Hefling noted.

The resolution is to be put for vote before the commission either Thursday or Friday. The voting was originally set for Wednesday.

Queries to the State Department went unanswered before press time.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) confirmed on Wednesday that officials in the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Europe had relayed to them the U.S. decision to abstain from the groundbreaking resolution.

“The word is the U.S. is abstaining,” Sean Cahill, director of the NGLTF Policy Institute said from New York. “It’s a no-brainer, simple resolution, and we urge the State Department to instruct the United States to vote on it.”

Cahill said the U.S. government claims that its foreign policy was driven by concern for human rights and the resolution simply states discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.

“We hope the U.S. government reconsiders its position,” Cahill said. “If we fail to support the resolution, once again the U.S. would be failing to show leadership on LGBT issues. Neutrality on it means supporting the axis of homophobia.”

Amnesty’s Hefling said, “We are disappointed the U.S. is going to abstain. We believe the U.S. government is undermining the principle of universality of human rights.”

The resolution, co-sponsored by at least 20 countries, calls on states to promote and defend the human rights of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A dozen Muslim countries and some African nations are opposed to the resolution, while Cuba had earlier said it would back it but now seems to have second thoughts. This was true for some other Latin American nations as well, informed sources in Europe said.

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