UN resolution on LGBT equality is a victory, but also a reminder of how far we have left to go toward equality
The passage of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council last month declaring that LGBT people around the world should be afforded equal protections with all other human beings left me overjoyed — yet still full of consternation.
The measure’s passage represented a great victory for human rights advocates who pressed for it. But the very need for such an action underscored how dangerous it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in many parts of the world, including the United States of America.
Homosexuality remains illegal in 76 of the globe’s countries, and it is punishable by death in five of them.
In the United States, where the Texas sodomy law — and in effect, all sodomy laws in the country — were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, discrimination and violence against LGBT people continues to run rampant. An analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in late 2010 revealed that LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be violently attacked as Jews and blacks, more than four times as likely as Muslims and 14 times as likely as Latinos.
In a press release by the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. resolution an “historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that LGBT people face around the world based solely on whom they are and whom they love.”
She noted that torture, rape, criminal proceedings and killings are sanctioned all over the world by religions that condemn anyone who does not adhere to traditional heterosexual norms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
The controversial resolution, which was proposed by South Africa, passed narrowly on a vote of 23 to 19. Although the measure was supported by the U.S. and other Western countries, it was opposed by African and Arab countries where the prosecution and persecution of LGBT individuals is the most severe.
Three countries, including China, abstained from voting.
Reaction to the U.N. resolution from opponents of LGBT rights was telling.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, denounced it as a maneuver in an international agenda to restrict the freedom of churches.
Tomasi claimed the church opposes violence against homosexual behavior and punishment based on a person’s “feelings and thoughts,” but he condemned the measure as detrimental to society and likened laws against homosexuality to prohibitions against incest, pedophilia and rape.
In Ghana, the Rev. Joseph Bosoma of the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church called on President John Evans Atta Mills to crack down on homosexuality in the country, warning that society was on the verge of a punishment similar to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in Biblical times.
The president assured the pastor that the government would take action to check homosexual activity.
Similarly, Alex McFarland of the American Family Association, the group that is sponsoring Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response Prayer Rally in Houston on Aug. 6, declared recently that the world is now in “The Latter Days,” in response to the passage of marriage equality in New York.
He argued that LGBT rights are not the equivalent of human rights.
Soulforce, an LGBT group that monitors conservative religious groups, noted that another host of Perry’s rally, Lou Engle, the leader of The Call, is one of three evangelical leaders in the U.S. who supported the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.
For three decades, the greatest impediment to the LGBT rights movement has been Christian Rights groups and their leaders who have seized on the concept of a “homosexual agenda” bent on destroying American culture and society. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, declared the fight against LGBT rights to be a “second civil war.”
Some of these Christian Rights groups have earned the distinction of being identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center because they have resorted to crude name-calling and spreading false information about LGBT people in an effort to draw support to their cause.
Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.
LGBT people comprise the last minority group left that it is politically correct in some quarters to attack, and Christian Rights groups and politicians like Gov. Perry are making the most of it.
The beginning of this summer marked the 16th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention’s apology to black people for its abominable treatment of that race over the years, and some gay activists, such as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, petitioned the church group to issue a similar apology to LGBT people.
That, of course, did not happen, but one day perhaps it will.
Until groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, which urges followers to “go the extra mile when witnessing to gay people,” recognize LGBT people as equal, freedom will continue to be a worldwide challenge.
The U.N. resolution was a milestone in that journey to equality, but the road ahead for LGBT people will continue to be a long and difficult one. The U.S., which admittedly is far behind some countries, will likely see success long before LGBT people in some parts of the world feel free.
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.