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Anti-Gay "Conscience Clause" -- at the UN too

amberglow's picture

Alone among major Western nations, the United States has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. ...

U.S. officials expressed concern in private talks that some parts of the declaration might be problematic in committing the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In numerous states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military. ...

The Dutch foreign affairs minister, Maxime Verhagen, said countries that endorsed the 1948 document had no right to carve out exceptions based on religion or culture that allowed discrimination against gays.

"Human rights apply to all people in all places at all times," he said. "I will not accept any excuse."

This is where they have "concern -- as opposed to the UN's views on war, torture, and most other things -- and the Geneva Convention -- and multiple other international treaties, laws, and agreements -- all of which we ignore when we wish. But this -- this they say will somehow be binding on us and affect our laws -- and private businesses.

Susan Rice, our incoming UN Ambassador, is said to be focusing on human rights --

... "She was one of the few people to live in the foreign-policy world who understood global issues, transnational issues like human rights, climate change and terrorism," ...

will we be included too?

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

also from UN Dispatch -- On the UN General Assembly's Historic Vote for LGBT Rights --

... Opposing the resolution, were the United States, the Holy See, and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This latter group issued its own statement claiming the declaration would ease restrictions against pedophilia. The United States couched its opposition in legal technicalities. "We are opposed to any discrimination, legally or politically," said Alejandro D. Wolff, the deputy U.S. ambassador. "But the nature of our federal system prevents us from undertaking commitments and engagements where federal authorities don't have jurisdiction."

Despite the opposition, this was a pretty significant event for the United Nations--and for the world. A resolution like this is non-binding, meaning that it does not have the force of law anywhere. But in the long run these kinds of resolutions do help to foster the genesis of new legal norms and new human rights.

The General Assembly resolution was the first step in what will be a ongoing process to decriminalize homosexuality and end LGBT discrimination on every country on the planet. Because this resolution was broadly supported by liberal democracies (including the E.U. most of Latin America and Commonwealth countries like New Zealand and Canada) pressure will steadily build to create a formal LGBT human rights framework. This is what liberal democracies do within the international system; they are hardwired to spread their ideals and extend the reach of international law. Once such a framework is built, it is only a matter of time before other countries begin to sign on.

A good guide for how this process works is the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was first proposed in 1976. Some thirty years later, there are 185 state parties to the convention--over 90% of UN member states. This does not mean that discrimination against women is now a thing of the past--far from it. But CEDAW has helped to make gender perspectives mainstream, both within and outside the UN system. ...