The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday approved a resolution supporting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.
The resolution, which passed 23-19 with three member state’s abstentions, calls for recognition that “affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms … without distinction of any kind.”
This is the first time that the U.N. body has passed a resolution which focuses specifically on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A spokesperson for U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton referred to the council’s vote as a “historic first step.”
The resolution was originally introduced by South Africa‘s delegation, which immediately came under intense criticism from other African countries, accusing South Africa of siding with the West over the LGBTQ equality rights issues.
The Nigerian envoy attacked South Africa saying that sponsorship of the resolution was breaking the tradition of the African continental group of nations. South Africa recently pledged to tackle an epidemic of ‘corrective rapes’ on lesbians in that country.
“It really is a key part in setting a new norm that gay rights are human rights and that that has to be accepted globally, said Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, in an interview with CNN.
“It talks about the violence and discrimination that people of LGBT persuasion experience around the world,” she said, “and that those issues … need to be taken seriously.”
The State Department lobbied intensively for the resolution, and Nossel said the U.S. was pleased to see African leadership, from South Africa in particular, as well as strong support from South America, Colombia and Brazil.
[sc name=”ad”]The resolution also will commission the first-ever U.N. report on the challenges that LGBT people face around the globe. Nossel said the Obama administration hopes it will “open a broader international discussion on how to best promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”
Clinton has made LGBTQ equality rights a primary component of the Obama Administration’s human rights agenda, stating that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
This past March the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a statement, supported by 85 countries, on LGBTQ rights called “Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”
Friday’s vote “marks a victory for defenders of human rights,” said Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. “It sends a clear message that abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity must end.”