2003: The U.N. Commission on Human Rights
discusses equal rights for gays and lesbians
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948):
When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was
adopted by the United Nations in 1948, the study of human sexuality was in
its infancy. In particular, little was known about sexual orientation. Agitation
for equal rights for gays and lesbians was not to emerge for decades.
Article 2 of the UDHR begins
"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status." 1,2
was not even mentioned. It was simply a non-issue in 1948. Unfortunately, the
UDHR made no provision to accommodate societal changes that would lead to
condemnation of new grounds for discrimination.
Draft resolution presented by Brazil:
The 53-member U.N. Commission on Human Rights is charged with the
responsibility of monitoring and promoting human rights worldwide. In 2003, the
Commission was chaired by Libya -- an ironic situation, because that country has a
particularly poor civil rights record. Brazil has introduced a draft resolution titled, "Human Rights and Sexual
Orientation," which addresses the topic of equal rights for gays and
lesbians. The text of the resolution follows:
"The Commission on Human Rights,
"Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women,
the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, "
"Recalling that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of
freedom, justice and peace in the world,"
"Reaffirming that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the
principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone
is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein without
distinction of any kind,
"Affirming that human rights education is a key to changing attitudes and
behavior and to promoting respect for diversity in societies, [the Human
"1. Expresses deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights
in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation;"
"2. Stresses that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright
of all human beings, that the universal nature of these rights and freedoms is
beyond question and that the enjoyment of such rights and freedoms should not
be hindered in any way on the grounds of sexual orientation;"
"3. Calls upon all States to promote and protect the human rights of all
persons regardless of their sexual orientation;"
"4. Notes the attention given to human rights violations on the grounds of
sexual orientation by the special procedures in their reports to the
Commission on Human Rights, as well as by the treaty monitoring bodies, and
encourages all special procedures of the Commission, within their mandates, to
give due attention to the subject;"
"5. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to pay
due attention to the violation of human rights on the grounds of sexual
"6. Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its sixtieth session
under the same agenda item."
Reactions to the resolution:
The vote on the resolution was expected on 2003-APR-25. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, (IGLHRC),
an international homosexual-rights group, 3 reported that it
has the support of Canada, New Zealand and several European Union countries.
They have urged people to lobby five key countries in order to get the
resolution approved: Argentina, Australia, India, South Africa and the United
States. The vote was expected to be close, because the resolution is co-sponsored
by at least 21 countries in the 53 member body. 4 There was
speculation that the United States may abstain from this vote.
Fundamentalist Christian groups have opposed the resolution: 5
|| Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, said: "We don't
need to get a moral instruction from Libya and Brazil. It's another reason for
us to get out of the U.N."
||A. Scott Loveless, associate professor of law at the World Family
Policy Center at the Mormon Brigham Young University" said: "It
is highly likely that gay-rights advocates will use this resolution, if it
passes, to advance their agenda to legalize gay marriage and to create
hate-crimes legislation. In their quest to legitimize homosexuality, many of
these countries have actually limited some of our most fundamental freedoms,
including freedom of speech." He may have been referring to the decisions
by two Canadian courts. A court fined one person who sponsored an
advertisement which cited a biblical reference which advocated genocide of
gays and lesbians. Another court fined a printer who refused to print
letterhead for a homosexual-positive group.
||Jane Adolphe, assistant professor of law at Ave Maria School of Law asserts that the proposed U.N. resolution "opens the door for further
attacks" on the policies of the Catholic Church. She said that: "Individuals
could presumably use this discrimination language to bring complaints against
the church with regard to hiring, employment, even the doctrines of the church
itself." The Church currently discriminates in employment and ordination
of lesbians, women, and sometimes against gays.
Other groups support the resolution:
||Amnesty International wrote in a statement: "This is the first
time that a resolution specifically focusing on sexual orientation has been
brought to the Commission. Its adoption is the only way to end the
intolerable exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from
the full protection of the UN system. A vote in favour of the resolution is
not a leap into uncharted territory, but a necessary reaffirmation of rights
firmly established in international standards. Governments who vote against
will be signalling that they no longer believe in the fundamental premise of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: that all human beings are equal
in dignity and rights, without distinction of any kind." 4
In the final meeting of the 59th session of the Commission on 2003-APR-25,
the representative from Germany invoked Rule 50, in order to close debate on the
resolution. The Chair proposed that the resolution be held over to the 60th
session of the Commission. The representative from Canada then moved that,
because of its importance, the discussion not be closed. They moved that
discussion resume within two days. The Chair's proposal was then voted upon and
passed by a vote of 24 to 17 with 10 abstentions. Canada's motion was not voted
To our knowledge, the resolution was never passed. However, a resolution sponsored by South Africa and supported by Brazil did pass in 2011.
- The text of the Universal Declaration is at: http://www.un.org/
- The text is available in other languages at: http://www.unhchr.ch/
- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has
a web site at: http://www.iglhrc.org/
- "UN Commission on Human Rights: Universality under threat over
sexual orientation resolution," Amnesty International, 2003-APR-22,
- "THE NEW WORLD DISORDER: Global 'gay' rights measure before U.N.
Opponents fear resolution will advance homosexual agenda worldwide,"
WorldNetDaily, 2003-APR-25, at: http://wnd.com/
- "Action Alert: U.N. Resolution Needs Your Support . First-Ever
Resolution Opposing Sexual Orientation-Based Human Rights Violations Set
For Consideration April 23," National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force, 2003-APR-18, at: http://www.ngltf.org/
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Copyright © 2003 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-APR-25
Latest update: 2013-MAR-23
Author: B.A. Robinson