Sexual Resolution

The Obama administration's decision to support the U.N. declaration to decriminalize homosexuality is cause to celebrate -- and cause for gay rights activists to hold the new president accountable for real change.

BY James Kirchick

March 24 2009 12:00 AM ET

The hosannas are flying
in response to
news

that the United States will sign onto a United Nations General
Assembly declaration urging all of its member states to
decriminalize homosexuality. "The Administration's leadership
on this issue is a rebuke of an earlier Bush administration
position that sought to deny the universal application of human
rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
individuals,"
said Mark Bromley

of the Council for Global Equality. Joe Solmonese of the Human
Rights Campaign

applauded

the State Department's decision as "a welcome step forward as
it signals to the world that, after years of a hostile
administration, the United States recognizes the humanity of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people at home and
abroad."

The decision by the
Obama administration to support the French-drafted statement
and thereby join 66 other countries in denouncing
government-endorsed homophobia represents a welcome reversal
from the policies of its predecessor. In December the Bush
administration refused to sign the decree, citing the bogus
rationale that the declaration's legal stipulations would
impinge on the ability of state governments to legislate on
matters of sexual orientation-based discrimination (in most
states it remains legal to fire someone because of their
sexuality). While the statement is sponsored by a diverse set
of democratic nations ranging from the entire European Union to
Israel and Japan, it is opposed, naturally, by a motley crew of
Muslim states, African dictatorships, and the authoritarian
behemoths of China and Russia. Those governments signed onto a
rival declaration drafted by Syria stating that the resolution
would "usher into social normalization, and possibly the
legitimization, of many deplorable acts, including
pedophilia." With this laudable turnaround, the United States
finds itself not only on the right side of a fundamental human
rights issue but in pleasant and proper company.

This auspicious move by
the new administration, however, carries the danger of lulling
gay rights activists into a sense of complacency. International
homophobia is something so entrenched that mere statements
protesting it will have little to no effect in mitigating its
horrendous consequences. While the decision of the Obama
administration marks a welcome change in American foreign
policy, it is ultimately a hollow victory.

That such a progressive
statement would emerge from the United Nations is unusual. Ever
since its establishment in 1945, the U.N. has been little more
than a money pit and a propaganda platform for the world's
worst human rights abusers. Throughout most of its existence,
the U.N. was a sideshow to the larger drama of the Cold War.
The Soviet Union and its satellites routinely denounced
American "imperialism" and very little was achieved in
forwarding the cause of international peace, the reason for the
U.N.'s creation. Although the superpower rivalry is long over,
the U.N. still functions mainly as a way for global
Lilliputians to tie down the American Gulliver.

Tags: Politics

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