US sides with Iran to bar gay groups from the UN

Every day, in every way, I feel more and more ashamed of being an American.

In a surprising reversal, the United States voted with Iran and other anti-gay countries at the United Nations to deny observer status to two gay rights groups at the world body, RAW STORY has learned.

The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations Economic and Social Council voted January 23, 10-5 with three abstentions to deny the International Lesbian and Gay Association of Brussels and the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians of Denmark consultive status at the UN.

Such status, which is enjoyed by over 3,000 NGOs around the world, allows access to UN proceedings, presence at conferences, and the right to propose agenda items.

ILGA operates in 90 countries, including the U.S., to reduce discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and respond to homophobic attacks.

The group has sought consultive status since 2002, which the U.S then supported.

The resolution to reject was put forth by Iran. Joining them and the U.S. in support of it were Cameroon, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Iran and Zimbabwe in particular are among the world’s most GLBT-oppressive nations in the world….

“This vote was an aggressive assault by the U.S. government on the right of sexual minorities to be heard,” said Scott Long of Human Rights Watch. “It’s astonishing the U.S. would align itself with Sudan, China, Iran and Zimbabwe in a coalition of the homophobic.”

…Outraged, the Persian Lesbian and Gay Organization has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding a reversal of the U.S. position. The letter is signed by Arsham Parsi, the group’s secretary of human rights affairs, Aryan Varjavandi, who is the group’s secretary general, and four other officers, all living in exile having fled Iran.

“After the atrocity terrorist attack on the U.S. in September 2001, the Iranian youth were the only youth group in the Middle East to walk with candles and show their support for the U.S. and their solidarity with the U.S. people,” says the letter, adding, “Your action in ECOSOC was like a slap in our face and caused a great disappointment indeed.”

I’ll keep criticizing other countries for oppressive tactics and discrimination. But I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t call to light my own government’s sins. Why would we do this? Why would we single out and ban gay groups? Why lead America backwards instead of forward? Sadly, the answer is too simple: Because this is the Age of Bush, where we talk big about freedom while feverishly pulling strings to curtail it.

Update: More evidence of Bush’s War on Freedom.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

Do “gay groups” include Vatican City?

Seriously, news like this requires me to pause and think carefully – because on the one hand, I have a personal aversion to identifying gays as a “group” bearing any categorical similarity to racial or ethnic minorities. HOWEVER, then I think more:

1. Even if (as some might argue) homosexuality is a kind of conduct rather than an inherent quality (hang on, folks, this is for the sake of argument), STILL, we could say the SAME about all religions. To a large extent, religion is a matter of choice, of chosen conduct – and the UN agrees that persecution of religious minorities must be monitored and opposed. Furthermore:

2. What matters most here is that some powers (the government of Iran, etc) identify “homosexuals” as a group to be persecuted. Thus, even if some of us (such as I) prefer not to think of gays as any kind of “group”, the fact that many powers DO so, is grounds for inviting some NGOs to monitor such human rights abuses in the UN.

And finally,

3. Niemoeller’s famous line about how “first they came for other minorities, and I didn’t speak out, and finally they came for me.” If you let them push back the boundaries of personal sexual choice, then in the long run NOBODY will be free to make what are now conventionally accepted choices – such as remaining single (even straights remaining single, get it?), or choosing not to have children, etc etc

If you let them take away one kind of sexual choice, you open the door for them (the mullahs, or the American Fundamentalist “Christians”) to push farther and take away EVERYONE’s choice. If they had their way, they’d force EVERYONE to get married and make babies and abstain from sex outside of marriage etc etc.

So, although I prefer not to identify gays as a “group”, many others do, and for them it’s the edge of a wedge which they want to drive into ALL kinds of personal choices.

February 2, 2006 @ 10:59 am | Comment

Whether or not we define gays as a group, there’s no denying that there are groups dedicated to defending/protecting the rights of homosexuals. These groups were allowed a consultative role at the United Nations, and now our government has sided with Iran and Azerbaijian in taking this role away from them. To say that this is alarming doesn’t say nearly enough.

I agree with all the points you make, Ivan, and see this as just another part of a broader, more insidious pattern of suffocating the voices of those who offend our Evangelical theocracy.

February 2, 2006 @ 11:42 am | Comment

Yep, and ALSO (expanding on what I said), you don’t have to be gay to suffer from persecution of gays. And this is especially problematic because being “Gay” is almost impossible to confirm unless somone goes public about his homosexuality, or is actually watched during his private moments. It’s one of those categories which is especially prone to be give rise to rumours – but ONLY IF it is considered to be immoral. If it’s generally accepted in society, then nobody bothers to spread rumours about it.

Thus, if we live in an environment where simply being SUSPECTED of being gay is grounds for persecution, then nobody is safe.

Consider the example of a single, reasonably courteous, successful man over the age of 30 – such as I and many others are. (And then amplify the problem if he’s rather good looking)…

“Why aren’t you married?” “None of your business, but I want to do other things with my life.” “But do you have a steady girlfriend?” “No.”
“Why not?” “Because I don’t want the aggravation of dealing with a woman at this moment, I’ve had various ladyfriends and got tired of them giving me orders, I like women but I don’t want one to run my life right now… etc etc”

See the problem? If the Fundies and the theocrats get their way, then ANYONE who chooses to remain single – and even more so, anyone who chooses to avoid being in any “relationship” for an extended time – will come under suspicion under the general umbrella of “gay”, and then as time goes on, simply anyone who isn’t married and making babies before age 30 will be discriminated against (as often happens in China even today….)

Thus, the freedom AND DIGNITY of straights is inseparable from the right of gays to be free from any kind of discrimination.

February 2, 2006 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

AND, now a good anecdote about what I wrote, above:

Some years ago, in a major American city, I was out late, alone, having some beers and listening to a really good live band. (And this was no dive – a rather upscale place, lots of professionals etc)

And two guys nearby – two young guys in suits, who were out together that night – approached me and made some small talk, and then they asked me if I was gay. I asked them why. They said, “because you’re alone here, and you’re not wearing a ring, and you’re not talking to any of the girls. so we just assumed…”

So I said, “Well no, I’m not gay. But if you’re looking for some, I can tell you where to hang out! Now go to (such and such street)….”

And they freaked out, “No! No! We’re not gay!” And I smiled and said,

“HEY, man, it’s alright! I’m very tolerant. And it’s obvious, you two guys out together, with no girlfriends, and then you ask me if I’m gay – hey, it’s obvious, you’re both gay and you’re cruising. Look, I’m not into it myself, but if you want to cruise where the gays are, just go to….”

….they were pretty quiet for the rest of the night. ๐Ÿ™‚

February 2, 2006 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

I must say that I can’t easily comment as I wouldn’t have had a standpoint on this. But, as someone that doesn’t really know much about it, I suppose it’s a shame.

February 2, 2006 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

The group in question, the ILGA, was thrown out of the US because it harbored pro-pedophilia groups. It says it has severed all links to pedophilia but refuses to supply a modern membership list to the UN of its member groups. Unless gay = pedophile, this is not an anti-gay vote on the part of the US but a renewal of a longstanding objection to pro-pedophile groups gaining UN accreditation.

February 2, 2006 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

Sorry, that should have been thrown out of the UN. The instigator of this was that old right-winger Jesse Helms. A full and fair description of the controversy can be found on Wikipedia in their ILGA entry.

February 2, 2006 @ 2:52 pm | Comment

drbrutus, there might be many reasons why an umbrella organization for human rights might not want to supply its membership list to a group of nations that harbor many rights-hating states and violent, homophobic leaders (like my very own president).


February 2, 2006 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

That pro-pedophilia argument is garbage. Where in the ILGA charter do they endorse pedophilia? This is the typical Sean Hannity approach: show that someone sometime in some organization had a tie to a group that endorsed something bad and use it to tar the entire organization as pro-bad. The argument is infantile and ludicrous.

February 2, 2006 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

I can see that the seperatio of church and state doesn’t reach all the way to the top yet.

February 6, 2006 @ 9:32 am | Comment

The big question is “so what?” Not everybody needs to support gay and lesbian rights. Not everyone believes that this lifestyle includes normal use of the human sexual organs and emotional faculties. The more we argue for acceptance of this group as an oppressed minority, the more we could also argue that Hamas, Al-Qaida and the KKK are also oppresessed minorities. They simply subscribe to a point of view that the majority of people do not subscribe to. Without allowing your readers to say that I am equating homosexuals with terrorists and hate-mongers, the concept is still valid and should be read as such.

There is certainly not an NGO at the U.N. representing sex between men and women (solely), so why should gay and lesibian, sex between those of the same gender, be allowed? I realize that you could come back and say that the gay and lesbian lifestyle is so much more than just sex, but that is it’s foundation, so we can just start with that.

February 11, 2006 @ 8:57 pm | Comment

Three words: Go fuck yourself.

February 11, 2006 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

That’s not a very nice thing to say Richard.

I was offering an alternative point of view. I don’t know if you are gay or not, but if you are, how is your reply any different than the hate-mongering you are rallying against? Does this mean that unless I agree wholeheartedly with you and/or gay people, I will be told to fuck off? I guess this means that there should be no debate on the subject – both homosexuals and the KKK deserve observer status at the United Nations.

February 12, 2006 @ 2:30 am | Comment

It was meant to be not nice. Comparing gays to al qaeda — depraved.

February 12, 2006 @ 6:08 am | Comment

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