By Piero A. Tozzi 

NEW YORK, December 19, 2008 ( – Two dueling declarations were presented yesterday at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on the controversial subject of “sexual orientation and gender identity.” The first, submitted by the French-led European Union (EU) and signed onto by roughly 65 nations, called upon member states to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected non-discrimination categories and “to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties.”

Nearly sixty nations, principally from the Islamic world, sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, presented an alternate statement which warned against the attempt to create “new rights” or “new standards” by “misinterpreting” the non-discrimination clauses of long-established human rights instruments. The alternate declaration condemned “all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatization, prejudice, intolerance and discrimination and violence directed against peoples, communities and individuals on any ground whatsoever, wherever they occur,” while defending the ability of sovereign nations to enact laws that meet the “just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare.”

The counter statement emphasized the danger of introducing terms “that have no legal foundations in any international human rights instrument,” such as “sexual orientation,” which were “never articulated nor agreed by the general membership.”

After the dueling statements were read in the GA’s morning session, a high level panel discussion on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” chaired by a representative from the International Lesbian and Gay Association, weighed the effect of the French-led declaration and considered the next steps. Rama Yade, France’s Junior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, who announced in September that her country would push the sexual orientation declaration at the UN, was among the participants. Other supporters included the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. 

Though both declarations were non-binding and neither was voted upon, homosexual rights activists were quick to portray the French/EU declaration as a victory. Speaking at the high level discussion, Dutch homosexual activist and parliamentarian Boris Dittrich called the declaration a “historical event” and a “step forward in the decriminalization of sodomy laws.” Yade echoed this, stating that the “final objective was universal decriminalization,” and vowed that the French/EU declaration was “just a starting point and not an ending point.”

Critics anticipate that the non-binding declaration will reappear in a more permanent form, perhaps as a General Assembly resolution to be voted upon. They also see the French/EU declaration as implicitly advancing radical social policy goals contained in the Yogyakarta Principles, a non-binding statement pushed by certain members of UN treaty compliance committees and civil society. EU government sources told C-Fam’s Friday Fax that a reference to the Yogyakarta Principles in an earlier draft was deleted in order to maintain consensus. 

The United States was to issue a statement deploring violence based on sexual orientation. A constituency had emerged within the State Department in favor of the French/EU proposal, but intervention by pro-family advocates ensured that the United States did not sign on to it.

Russia, Belarus, and the Holy See made separate statements critical of the French-EU initiative, independent of those nations that signed onto the alternate declaration.

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