.- State Department officials say the U.N.'s first-ever resolution on âsexual orientation and gender identityâ represents an international victory for the Obama administration's policy agenda.
âThis is really a paradigmatic example of using the U.N. system to advance one of President Obama's top policy priorities,â said Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, after the resolution's passage on June 17. âWeâve been able to deliver on broad international support behind an agenda that we have set as a key goal for this Administration.â
During Friday's media briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Baer also emphasized the role of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Geneva-based Human Rights Council's decision.
âBoth the President and Secretary Clinton have made LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) human rights a priority,â Baer said. He recalled that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton âgave a speech last year in which she said gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.â
âShe has sent out a cable to all ambassadors instructing them that LGBT human rights are part of our comprehensive human rights policy,â he stated.
Eileen Donahoe, the U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, said the resolution was âa game changer â¦ at least at the Human Rights Council, on the topic of protections for LGBT people.â
The text of the resolution is, despite all the publicity, relatively modest. It requests the commissioning of a study documenting âdiscriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.â
That study will seek to determine âhow international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.â Next spring the council will convene a panel discussion to discuss the study's findings.
Nossel says the resolution won't create a âsea change overnight.â Rather, she explained, âitâs a beginning of an international norm that will take hold gradually.â
âIf you look at the human rights provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they didnât all take hold overnight.â But, she said, âby putting them down definitively in an internationally-backed document, you set an irreversible process in motion.â
Proposals to place âsexual orientationâ and âgender identityâ on the same level as race, religion, or biological gender have encountered opposition at the U.N., from Muslim countries as well as the Vatican.
Opposition from several African and Middle Eastern countries ensured that Friday's vote was close one. In the end, 23 countries supported the resolution, first introduced by South Africa, with 19 countries voting against it.
Two historically Eastern Orthodox countries, Russia and Moldova, joined the Arab and African countries in their opposition. Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Hungary and Ukraine were all among the resolution's supporters.
The Holy See's permanent mission in Geneva has not yet issued a public statement on the resolution. But the Vatican has repeatedly called for an approach that respects the legitimate human rights of all persons, without falsely equating heterosexual and homosexual behavior.
In 2008, the Holy See explained that it opposes âunjust discrimination toward homosexual persons,â while objecting to the categories of âsexual orientationâ and âgender identity.â
The Vatican is concerned that these categories âcreate serious uncertainty in the lawâ regarding matters such as marriage, adoption, and the rights of religious organizations.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer and representative at the Human Rights Council, spoke out in March 2011 against the misuse of the âorientationâ concept as a means of attacking those who reject an ideology of sexual liberation.
The archbishop pointed out that the term âsexual orientationâ refers properly to âfeelings and thoughts, not to behavior.â
âFor the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behavior, on the other,â Archbishop Tomasi explained.
âA state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the personâs feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings.â
âBut states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples.â