Today, the international community took an important step in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights around the world. In a narrow 23-19 vote, the United Nation’s Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling attention to the daily mistreatment, discrimination and violence that LGBT people face. It charges the Human Rights Council High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay, with preparing and presenting a study on discriminatory laws and practices that restrict or oppress LGBT people. The resolution also establishes appropriate follow-up to seek recommendations to eliminate them.
This act makes history as the first time the UN passed a resolution solely focused on protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In December 2008, 66 countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirming protections of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, from which the United States was sorely absent in support. While inspiring hope in many countries, the 2008 statement had little power to create significant change for those struggling. However, today’s announcement has strong potential to bring attention to the horrifying experiences of transgender people by thoroughly documenting the laws and institutions that perpetuate them. Notably, this resolution marks the first time that sexual orientation and gender identity has ever been included in a formal UN resolution, showing a distinct improvement in worldwide awareness of transgender rights.
The Obama Administration has been a strong advocate for worldwide LGBT rights, and was a key player in the passing of today’s resolution. Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director said, “This resolution is a historic step in the global movement for transgender rights and strengthens our own work at home.” She continued, “I am proud of our country’s support of the resolution. President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s leadership here is among many examples of this Administration’s commitment to real change for transgender people everywhere.”
JUNE 20th UPDATE: President Obama released the following statement on the passage of the resolution:
Today, for the first time in history, the United Nations adopted a resolution dedicated to advancing the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights — and entitled to the same protections — as all human beings. The United States stands proudly with those nations that are standing up to intolerance, discrimination, and homophobia. Advancing equality for LGBT persons should be the work of all peoples and all nations. LGBT persons are entitled to equal treatment, equal protection, and the dignity that comes with being full members of our diverse societies. As the United Nations begins to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for LGBT persons, the world becomes a safer, more respectful, and more humane place for all people.