UNHCR Passes Gay Rights Resolution

In a landmark vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution calling for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to update a report on the state of anti-gay violence and discrimination around the world and efforts to prevent those violations.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and 42 additional co-sponsors introduced the resolution. In its presentation to the Council, Chile stated that “this resolution does not seek to create new rights…there are some whose rights are more violated and need more protection.” Colombia added “the report that we request is part of existing international law.” The resolution passed by a vote of 25 to 14, with 7 abstentions, with support from all regions and an increased base of support since 2011.

The resolution survived a total of seven hostile amendments, seeking to strip the resolution of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity. Brazil stated that the proposed amendments would “seek to radically change the purpose and focus of the resolution and change its substance.”

“The leadership of these Latin American states reflects strong commitment to human rights for all and follows the significant progress that is being made by governments and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, travesti, and intersex activists in the region,” said Andres Rivera Duarte of the Observatorio Derechos Humanos y Legislación in Chile.

The resolution asks the high commissioner for human rights to update a 2012 study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/19/41), with a view to sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination. The resolution expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination in all regions of the world against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This resolution demonstrates that this issue remains on the agenda of the Human Rights Council and sends a message of support to people around the world who experience this type of violence and discrimination, the organizations said.

“While we would have preferred to see an institutionalized reporting mechanism, the council has still sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders working on these issues,” said Jonas Bagas, of TLF Share in the Philippines. “We look forward to states implementing the outcomes of these reports.”

The votes were predictable. In support of the resolution were Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba
Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United States of America, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Opposing were Algeria, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Russia.

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  • Michael Heath

    Chile stated that “this resolution does not seek to create new rights . . .

    This is incoherent. We’d advance the protection of rights far faster if we first understood what rights are, the source of our rights (ourselves, they’re inalienable), and the role just governments play in protecting and infringing upon our rights. The only way liberals pass a test on literacy is when we grade them on a curve next to authoritarians.

  • thebookofdave

    Without public feedback from a reporting mechanism, the measure is largely symbolic. Still, it feels good to thumb our collective nose at Russia and the Saudi’s treatment of LGBT people. Also, good job, ‘Murica, for not siding with the baddies on a human rights resolution. You get a biscuit.

  • hunter

    @1: Chile was merely responding to one of the staple arguments of anti-gays everywhere: the idea that giving The Other the same rights everyone else enjoys is tantamount to creating “new rights.” We’ve seen it ad nauseam in right-wing responses to marriage equality, when they rail against the courts for establishing a “new right” to same-sex marriage. Not the case at all — it’s merely recognizing that gays and lesbians are able to exercise the existing right of marriage to the person of their choice.

    As for “incoherent” — I suggest you reread your comment.

  • Michael Heath

    hunter @ 3:

    Chile was merely responding to one of the staple arguments of anti-gays everywhere: the idea that giving The Other the same rights everyone else enjoys is tantamount to creating “new rights.”

    An underlying presumption of Chile’s statement is that it is possible for governments to create new rights, just not in this case. As I noted earlier, this is both incoherent and ignorant.

  • Chiroptera

    I have to admit that I’m surprised at some of the nations in the list of those who supported the resolution. But then I’m definitely not as aware of various nations’ internal politics as I once was.

  • Trebuchet

    Cue the RWNJ’s screaming an moaning about Obama supporting the resolution in 3..2..1..

  • Georgia Sam

    This will give the Christian right yet another reason to hate the UN. I expect a torrent of wingnut rants that wildly exaggerate the effects of this resolution, with the usual predictions of tyranny, loss of national sovereignty, UN troops rounding up believers & putting them in concentration camps, etc.

  • Pen

    if we first understood what rights are, the source of our rights (ourselves, they’re inalienable)

    The least one can say about the rights we think humans should have is that they are not inalienable, since most humans throughout the course of history have found themselves alienated from at least some of them. We are certainly not in possession of a shared understanding on what it means for the ‘source of our rights to be ourselves’. Trust me, just because some guy called Jefferson wrote it down on a piece of paper doesn’t make it mean anything except ‘don’t even try to talk us out of it’ as he originally intended.

    It could well be that the source of our rights is ‘ourselves’ if we mean ourselves, collectively granting rights to each other. I think this is our best bet for the phrase to make sense. The idea that I can search inside myself and consider I have a right to anything I feel I have a right to is absurd. So, if ‘ourselves’ is collective, states and governments, as our representatives (or rulers) can grant rights or revoke them. So can societies at large, through changing custom. Many of the things listed as ‘our rights’ involve entities like families and nations which aren’t indissociable from being human, at least not in the form we currently expect. They involve concepts like freedom of speech which rest on the idea that speech can’t force a consequence on others without their consent, a proposition not subscribed to by many historical human cultures. They involve freedom of religion which is a tough pill to swallow if you genuinely believe your deity really exists and is likely to dish out collective puishment to believers and dissenters alike, as many historical societies have and some extremists still do.

    We might just discover our rights in a clear and accurate analysis of the state of the universe, planet and humanity and we surely wouldn’t be the first to think we could.

  • corporal klinger

    I sincerely hope that this is not a case of “straightplaining” but if so, my sincere apologies to whom I may offend and thank you for correcting me.

    Whenever I read about the fight for equal rights for LGBT people and the twist that homophobic people give it talking about “special rights” for LGBT people, I wish that those writing about the issue, would much more stress out that it is not only about equal rights for equal human beings, but also equal DUTIES for equal human beings. Giving LGBT people equal rights, does not strip heterosexual people of their rights and it doesn’t free LGBT’s to fulfill their civic duties – as every other citizen.

  • dhall

    As much as this sounds like a positive development, I wonder if it will have the exact opposite of the hoped-for result: the escalation of discrimination and persecution by those who decide to tell the UN that it’s not their boss, and they’ll do damned well whatever they please, or like their gawd says.

  • D. C. Sessions

    We could save a lot of semantic philosophizing if we could agree that in these discussions the word “rights” is actually shorthand for “legally and/or socially enforceable rights” and get on with it.

  • anbheal

    @5, if you mean the Latin countries, they’ve been out in front on these social issues for a generation, well ahead of the U.S. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay have same-sex marriage, and it’s coming soon to Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. The notion that Latins are all conservative Catholics is 30 years out of date (they also lead the world in cohabitation before marriage), and it’s the mistake the GOP keeps making in electoral gambits — the Cubans of southern Florida are the only truly conservative Latino voting bloc. And, of course, if the U.S. stopped sponsoring coups and installing right-wing dictatorships, most of the hemisphere would be socialist.

    @1 As for rights being inalienable, that’s utter codswallop — rights are entirely a social construct, invented, provided, and withdrawn solely at the discretion of the elites. Look at Libertarians: they see a right not to sell their houses to a black family, but no right for a black family to buy a house. Ayn Rand thought that rape and murder were the privilege of the strong, and Mao said all rights derive from the barrel of a gun. There’s no right to anything until the people in power say there is, and most certainly not a right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness — just ask any incarcerated black man. Because, um, you can’t ask the ones who were killed before incarceration.

  • Michael Heath

    Pen writes:

    We are certainly not in possession of a shared understanding on what it means for the ‘source of our rights to be ourselves’.

    When you read appellate court opinions, including the SCOTUS’s, you’ll see that in the U.S. we do share a common reference point. For example, in the so-called Bong Hits for Jesus case, J. Thomas doesn’t deny that students don’t have speech rights. Instead he makes the case that government has delegated authority to infringe upon those rights and that the government is obligated to instead protect their speech rights when students under the supervision of the school (government).

    If we extend our point of reference globally, we still maintain consistency. Here’s the lead whereas in the Preamble of the UN’s, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights :

    Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

    And to butrress my argument that we don’t advance the cause of human rights sufficiently if liberals remain ignorant on the topic, I quote that same Preamble:

    Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

    Link: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

    I see two reasons why liberals shoot themselves in the foot when they don’t properly premise the source of our asserted rights.

    Liberal opponents falsely proclaim themselves the sole protectors against unconstitutional encroachment of government power. So we can leverage that when government attempts to prohibit the exercise of rights in our bedrooms, within our families, or with our doctors.

    Secondly, the only animated debate regarding the source of our rights is religionists claiming our rights come from their sect’s god as revealed in their holy dogma. So exposing that premise to the argument that we are free because our rights are inalienable, and independent of any religious ‘isms, also greatly advantages liberals.

  • Michael Heath

    D.C. Sessions writes:

    We could save a lot of semantic philosophizing if we could agree that in these discussions the word “rights” is actually shorthand for “legally and/or socially enforceable rights” and get on with it.

    I would agree with your point if all involved people were literate on the idea of individual rights and have some framework for what is and what is not ‘just governance’ (e.g., the argument in the DofI is one, it is not necessarily authoritative – it’s merely an argument). If universal comprehension existed, then such rhetorical shortcuts would be fine because we won’t see such sloppy language result in defective arguments. However from my perspective, such sloppy language almost always leads to at least one side making structurally unsound arguments, to the point they’re fatally flawed.

    I see liberals, including Ed, constantly using the same flawed approach to argue that government doesn’t have to protect a particular right consistent with how conservatives do the same. In Ed’s case it’s his falsified argument we don’t have a right to not be offended by some forms of speech. In the case of conservatives, an exemplary argument of theirs is that nowhere in the Constitution does it require the state to protect abortion rights, therefore no such rights requires protection.

    In both cases such false assertions leads us down dead-end alleys rather than making productive arguments based on factual premises.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Mr. Heath, how about incorporating those points by reference (footnote, inline hyperlink, whatever) rather than putting more miles on your finger joints every time the subject of rights comes up? You’re not that much younger than I am and arthritis is no fun.

    Not to mention the benefits of avoiding a diversion into a side-issue for the thread. Note the objection if you will, briefly, and get on with the main topic.

  • http://yourownrisk.wordpress.com Squiddhartha

    The votes against are indeed predictable, and neatly sort into three (partially overlapping) categories: African, Muslim, and Russia.

  • corwyn

    @corporal Klinger

    but also equal DUTIES for equal human beings

    Exactly which duties did you think were pertinent to the discussion? Do you think gays are trying to avoid jury duty? paying taxes?

  • Chiroptera

    corwyn, #17:

    The duty to pay for cakes and photographs. At least that’s the only way I can explain why some Christian business owners don’t want to do business.

  • corwyn

    If all rights are by definition inalienable, then why did as great a writer as Thomas Jefferson feel the need to include the adjective at all? No, people have been hearing that phrase for so long that they somehow think that it is definitional, when in fact Jefferson was specifically trying to make that precise point.

    My preferred definition of ‘right’ is that class of privileges which one may, in principle, grant to everyone, in exchange for them being granted to oneself. This rids us of the idea that one can have a right to a Ferrari. Granting them to everyone may well entail sacrificing personally in order to help enforce the maintaining of those rights for others. If no one is willing to enforce them then the right is not realized.

    Also, we can only choose some subset of all rights. The right to privacy directly contradicts the right to know certain thing about one’s neighbors. Which of those is inalienable?

  • Pen

    If we extend our point of reference globally, we still maintain consistency. Here’s the lead whereas in the Preamble of the UN’s, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights :

    Yeah, but that’s just meaningless guff or awesome poetry, according to preference. It’s not called a preamble for nothing. It is literally there, like a religious text, to inspire us to greater things. But it lacks hard content.

    PS I’m not American, so what SCOTUS thinks only affects me when I’m visiting.

  • Michael Heath

    corwyn writes:

    My preferred definition of ‘right’ is that class of privileges which one may, in principle, grant to everyone, in exchange for them being granted to oneself.

    You’re describing the very false conflation that causes such dysfunctional debates,e.g., then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi falsely asserting that access to preventative health care is a right (during the Obamacare legislative debates).

    Privileges are not rights. From the framer’s perspective,they distinguished privileges from those rights that should be protected by referring to the latter as immunities. We see both terms used in both the Constitution when it was originally ratified as well as the 14th Amendment. Thank you for so vividly illustrating the problem here.

  • Michael Heath

    Pen writes:

    . . . that’s just meaningless guff or awesome poetry, according to preference. It’s not called a preamble for nothing. It is literally there, like a religious text, to inspire us to greater things. But it lacks hard content.

    Preambles often, including here, create the context within which the “hard content” is read. That’s true for the both the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. doc on human rights.

  • khms

    @21 Michael:

    Privileges are not rights. From the framer’s perspective,they distinguished privileges from those rights that should be protected by referring to the latter as immunities. We see both terms used in both the Constitution when it was originally ratified as well as the 14th Amendment. Thank you for so vividly illustrating the problem here.

    You know, your framer’s don’t get to decide what a right is for all the world. Neither, for that matter, does the UN. Your argument from authority is completely bogus.

  • khms

    Argh! “framers”. Not a greengrocer.

  • Michael Heath

    khms writes:

    You know, your framer’s don’t get to decide what a right is for all the world.

    Sheesh; I never claimed the U.S. framers spoke for all nor did I make an argument from authority. Instead I referenced the U.S. and the U.N. to explain their perspective on rights given that Chile’s perspective was flawed relative to the framework in play within which they argued (the U.N. charter on rights). That rights are inalienable from these two entities’ perspectives – rights do not come from government. So please rebut what I write rather than what you wished I written.

    I also made best argument I know regarding rights; that they’re are alienable to each of us individually, and that ‘just governments’ protect our rights rather than infringe upon those rights, infringing only when they’ve been delegated authority to do so.

    This model has worked relatively well for the U.S. and I think has also been working for the U.N. though obviously not fast enough given the existence of authoritarianism, religion, and ignorance. And most importantly, it’s a horrid approach to be at the mercy of government arbitrarily creating rights and claiming other rights do not exist.

    If you want to argue for a better approach, no one’s stopping you from doing so.

  • corwyn

    Privileges are not rights.

    No, and I search for a better word for quite a while. Replace it with ‘concept’ if you want. Or ‘freedom’. Or even ‘immunities’, though that sounds wrong to modern ears. The idea is that something *can be* a right, if one is capable granting it to everyone, in exchange for getting it for oneself. This concept can’t be a conflation, as it is merely my opinion on how the concept can be best corralled. We can’t have a meaningful discussion on the subject until we agree on what the word means, or we end up sounding stupid by saying that someone is saying something *false* about whether some concept fits into a definition that we haven’t even agreed upon yet.

  • hunter

    Michael Heath @4: Sorry, no — that assumption is implicit in the argument that Chile was responding to — the rebuttal must necessarily address that, even if by inference — by my reading, the rest of the quote repudiates that idea. I happen to agree with your basic idea, and find myself being irritated with those who speak of governments “granting” rights, when in fact governments are only able to recognize them.