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U.S. Still
Unattached to United Nations' First Gay Rights Statement

U.S. Still
Unattached to United Nations' First Gay Rights Statement

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A United Nations joint statement calling for countries to decriminalize homosexuality and keep LGBT people safe has been backed by nearly every Western nation -- except possibly the United States. The U.N. suggests the lack of support may be because the statement has yet to be finalized, but activists suggest the U.S. government may simply be dragging its feet.

A United Nations joint statement calling for countries to decriminalize homosexuality and keep LGBT people safe has been backed by nearly every Western nation -- except possibly the United States.

A U.N. spokeswoman for the United States said the government has not shown its support because the statement has not been finalized, but U.K. gay activist Peter Tatchell says it has been put through the final steps.

"The U.S. government often berates Zimbabwe, Burma, and Sudan over their human rights violations," Tatchell said in an e-mail on Wednesday. "These condemnations will ring hollow if the U.S. refuses to support this U.N. joint statement. This is a test of the U.S. government's commitment to universal human rights. Washington will lose ever more respect and credibility if it fails to endorse this statement of support for LGBT human rights."

All 27 countries in the European Union have already approved of the French-proposed statement, to be submitted to the U.N. General Assembly by December 20. The Vatican -- which is neither a European Union member nor a voting member of the U.N. -- denounced the declaration last week. Additionally, several Eastern European countries, Mexico, Japan, and Australia have pledged their support to the statement. However, there is still not enough international support for a majority.

Tatchell said the joint statement represents a reduction from its initial status as a declaration, which tends to carry more weight in the United Nations. Some countries were apprehensive about signing onto a declaration, but consented to sign a joint statement instead. Tatchell is asking Americans to contact their representatives in Congress and the White House to urge them to support the statement.

With the landmark 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 13 standing state laws that allowed authorities to arrest and prosecute people for gay sex. Still, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are protected under federal hate-crime or nondiscrimination laws; such protections are urged in the statement.

As of May 2008, more than 80 countries around the world still criminalize consensual sex between two people of the same gender, according to a report by the International Lesbian and Gay Association. Among those counties, seven consider such offences punishable by death. (Michelle Garcia, Advocate.com)

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