June 17, 2011—For the First time, the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva has adopted a resolution expressing concern at acts of violence and discrimination committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The text calls on the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a global study outlining discriminatory laws, practices and acts of violence directed at LGBT individuals, with recommendations on how to put an end to such fundamental human rights abuses. The study will be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council next year. The resolution was tabled by South Africa and it enjoyed strong support from the United States and a broad coalition of voting states from all regions of the world. It was adopted in Geneva today by a vote of 23 countries in support, 19 against and 3 abstentions.
The United States was represented at the adoption by U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Baer. Baer noted the importance the United States placed on this vote, emphasizing that “this resolution confirms to millions of people around the world that every person – every human being on this planet – matters. As Secretary Clinton said, ‘Gay rights are human rights.’ So are the rights of religious minorities, the disabled and so many others who have been historically ignored or persecuted, not for what they do but for what they are. This is an important step in the quest for dignity for all. And I am proud that the U.S. is a part of it.”
This is the first official UN resolution to focus exclusively on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and it is the first time that gender identity has ever been included in such a formal UN text. A vocal coalition of civil society advocates, coordinated by ARC International, also gathered in Geneva to push the UN to adopt the text. Those advocates, together with non-governmental leaders in South Africa, worked with the South African government to refine the text and then lobbied hard for its adoption. See the full text of the statement from the NGO coalition that supported the resolution here.
The United States was an official co-sponsor of the resolution and worked with South Africa and other co-sponsors from Europe, Latin America and Asia to secure its passage. Under President Obama and with the leadership of Secretary of State Clinton, the United States has become a strong voice for LGBT rights at the United Nations.
View the vote count here.