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U.S. opposes UN resolution against death penalty for same-sex relations

The U.S. on Sept. 29, 2017, is among the countries that voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning the use of the death penalty against those convicted of consensual same-sex sexual relations. (Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

The U.S. on Sept. 29 voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemns the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.

The resolution — which Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland introduced — passed by a 27-13 vote margin.

Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the U.K. supported the resolution. Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the U.S. in opposing it.

Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Cuba abstained.

The resolution specifically condemns “the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations” and expresses “serious concern that the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women.” It also notes “poor and economically vulnerable persons and foreign nationals are disproportionately subjected to the death penalty, that laws carrying the death penalty are used against persons exercising their rights to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, religion, and peaceful assembly and association, and that persons belonging to religious or ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among those sentenced to the death penalty.”

ILGA in a press release noted Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia sought to amend the resolution and “dilute its impact.” These amendments failed, even though the U.S. supported two of them from Russia that stated the death penalty “does not per se mean a (human rights) violation, but may lead to . . . (human rights) violations” and “in some cases the (death penalty) leads to torture, rather than that many states hold that the (death penalty) is a form of torture.”

The U.S. also backed a proposed amendment from Egypt that stated “a moratorium (on the death penalty) should be a decision after domestic debate.” The U.S. abstained from voting on a proposed amendment from Saudi Arabia that said countries have the right to “develop their own laws and penalties (in accordance with international law.)”

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan are among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual activity remains punishable by death. The so-called Islamic State has executed dozens of men in Iraq, Syria and Libya who were accused of committing sodomy.

“It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in states where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love” said ILGA Executive Director Renato Sabbadini in a press release, referring to the resolution. “This is a monumental moment where the international community has publicly highlighted that these horrific laws simply must end.”

The vote took place nine days after Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Costa Rican Vice President Ana Helena Chacón and other world leaders attended a U.N. LGBT Core Group event that coincided with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

Kelly Currie, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, attended the event but did not speak. Former Vice President Biden is among those who spoke at last year’s U.N. LGBT Core Group event.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in April said the U.S. remains “disturbed” by the ongoing crackdown against gay men and lesbians in Chechnya. Caitlyn Jenner in July met with Haley at her office in New York.

President Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia in May. He made no mention that consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death in the kingdom in a speech he gave in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Trump has also not publicly commented on the ongoing crackdown against LGBT Chechens.

The U.S. and 24 other countries in 2014 voted for a resolution against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted. The body in 2011 narrowly approved a resolution in support of LGBT rights that South Africa introduced.