U.S. May Abstain from Historic U.N. Vote
April 24, 2003
By Ahmar Mustikhan, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com 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
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 Gay.com/PlanetOut.com on
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
Queries to the State Department went unanswered before
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
“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.