David Kato Memorial at the United Nations

Dear all: 

A week ago, we witnessed the death of Ugandan Human Rights Defender David Kato – he was a  remarkable human rights activist with an inspiring story and so we want to remember him with thanksgiving, confession and a renewed commitment to the fact that every human being is entitled to safety and security under the law and when a law is created which refuses the living of life because of the prejudices of a populace, we’ve got to take a stand with the one who is refused that life.

We also know that the human rights he was determined to defend (the LGBT population) were of a population that  Christianity as well as other religions have condemned, and spread through colonialization even unto today.   This part of Uganda is especially influenced by an evangelical fervor against homosexuality.

Please come and reflect and renew our action together for the sake of all persons –  the elderly, the middle aged, the young adults, the youth and the children of the world…. in the Chapel at CCUN at noon on Wednesday.   

We hope to advise of the actions that are happening around this concern in the U.N. area and in the Churches (and perhaps other religions) at that service.

Thank you.
Kathleen

Chaplain, Church Center for the United Nations
777 United Nations Plaza, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10017
212-682-3633, ext. 3127

Download the flyer for the service

UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

A growing coalition for decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity

Media Release
December 17, 2010
Contact: Ann Craig (213)-703-1365 craig@glaad.org<mailto:craig@glaad.org>

UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

Forty national faith leaders and organizations in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were convened on December 13 by the Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights. The group, meeting across the street from the United Nations at the Church Center for the UN, spoke out strongly against the action of a committee in the UN that removed gay people from a list of groups protected from violent targeting and extrajudicial killing.  The Coalition expressed strong support for Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, who is expected to propose reinstatement of sexual orientation to the UN resolution on December 20.

The essence of the Resolution is reflected in the following comments by leaders in the Coalition.  The full document can be read on our blog.

Bruce Knotts, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, said, "Thousands of supporters have been called on to contact US State Department officials and the UN to urge the reinstatement of sexual orientation as a protected class.  In addition to this protection, the UN and all countries can add protection for everyone by adopting the Yogyakarta Principles which say, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.’"

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop from Uganda, said, "As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see how countries in Eastern Africa are increasingly persecuting people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries. The UN removal of sexual orientation from a list of protected groups is one more symptom of a deeply disturbing trend."

Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce, said, "Imprisoning or executing people for sexual orientation or gender identity does not just violate human rights, it undermines trust, social cohesion, economic development and public health. Trust is vital for cooperation among nations, communities, families and co-workers.  We call on the UN to rebuild this trust by protecting all people who are subject to persecution by unjust laws and mob actions."

Frank Mugisha, head of SMUG (Sexual Minorities of Uganda) said, "The international community must not ignore the warning signs of persecution and genocide.  LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for the lives.  Any law that calls for imprisonment or execution based on sexual orientation or gender identity creates a climate ripe for vigilantes. People of good will must speak out."

Pat Bumgardner, head of the Metropolitan Community Church’s International Committee, said, "All faith traditions support human rights but many faith leaders get cold feet when it comes to LGBT human rights.  It is time for faith leaders to step up and support human rights for all people.
Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, African American people of faith understand that LGBT people have always been part of our faith communities.  As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk.

Episcopal Canon Albert Ogle, head of St. Paul’s Foundation, said, "When I was in Uganda this year, I saw the needs for pastoral ministry such as Bishop Senyonjo is offering.  Today, we call on all faith leaders to know that much rests on their shoulders.  They need to follow their conscience to take actions to protect LGBT people both in the US and across the globe."

The UN Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights is a coalition of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, Metropolitan Community Church, National Black Justice Coalition, The Fellowship, Union Theological Seminary and St. Paul’s Foundation for Reconciliation.

None On Record Project introduced at United Nations meeting

None On Record

Soulforce joins United Nations LGBT/SOGI consultation on human rights of LGBT people and introduces None on Record, stories from queer Africans, to our volunteers and allies.  Visit NoneOnRecord.com to explore the project.  

 

UN General Assembly Votes To Allow Gays To Be Executed Without Cause

United NationsGay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism this week, thanks to a United Nations vote that removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

According to the International Gay and Lesbians Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian issues removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions this past week in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Carribean nations.  For a UN committee that addresses human rights questions that affect people all over the world, by removing protections for LGBT persons from a category of arbitrary executions,  belies the objective and purpose of a committee whose  focus this year is "on the examination of human rights questions," according to its website.

A number of LGBT human rights advocates were surprised by the decidedly lop-sided vote, including Mark Bromley, the chair of the Council on Global Equality, a Washington, D.C. based organization that brings together human rights organizations, LGBT groups, philanthropists and corporate leaders to "encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world."

“I was very surprised by the vote," said Bromley, who had been in contact with the United States Mission to the United Nations delegation all day Tuesday, who were trying to beat back efforts to strip sexual orientation from the resolution.  But because the U.S. supports capital punishment, they usually abstain from voting on this resolution, thus they are in a weakened position with one arm tied behind their backs, according to Bromley. "But that said, the State Department did everything possible to beat back the efforts to repeal protections for LGBT persons," he added.

For further analysis into this story, read Tanya Domi’s latest piece at The New Civil Rights Movement, "UN Vote Allowing Gays To Be Executed Result Of Political, Religious Fundamentalism."

The U.K. gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said,
“This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder.

“The UN vote is in direct defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equal treatment, non-discrimination and the right to life. What is the point of the UN if it refuses to uphold its own humanitarian values and declarations?
“This vote is partly the result of a disturbing homophobic alliance between mostly African and Arab states, often inspired by religious fundamentalism. LGBT people in these countries frequently suffer severe persecution."

In an issued statement explaining the U.S. vote, a representative of the U.S. UN delegation said,

At the outset, let me say that the United States strongly agrees with and appreciates the cosponsors’ efforts to retain language specifically condemning ESAs [extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions] targeting vulnerable groups, particularly members of the LGBT community, and we were dismayed that this reference could not survive an unfriendly amendment.

Bromley expressed great disappointment in losing all the Southern African countries on the vote, including Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Nambia and South Africa, the latter, whose domestic laws and record on LGBT civil rights have held great regard throughout the world.  Nonetheless, according to Bromley, from the days of  former President Thabo Mbeki through present day leader Jacob Zuma, South Africa has been recalcitrant in its opposition to extending human rights to LGBT persons within international legal structures.
Another region that unanimously supported the removal of sexual orientation from the resolution were the Carribean nations.  Most noteworthy was the support from the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.  Bromley indicated that the U.S.  and human rights groups in the hemisphere have opportunities to forcefully advance LGBT rights through theOrganization of American States (OAS) and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Brazil and Uruguay are international leaders on LGBT rights and can play a constructive role in bringing Carribean nations into the OAS fold on these issues, according to Bromley.

Middle East countries that principally observe the Muslim religion and its practices, as well as countries whose politics are dominated by Christian fundamentalists, generally oppose LGBT and women’s rights at the UN.  Even the United States has yet to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Indeed, CEDAW has the most "reservations" filed by the most member states of any international human rights convention on record.  A reservation is a statement made by a State which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty in their application.  According to the  Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights,

A reservation may enable a State to participate in a multilateral treaty in which it would otherwise be unable or unwilling to do so.  States can make reservations to a treaty when they sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to it.   When a State makes a reservation upon signing, it must confirm the reservation upon ratification, acceptance or approval…a reservation cannot be contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty.

As an LGBT activist or an observer of UN and international politics, it is important for interested persons to understand that religion and culture play a major role in persuading internal bodies to not extend certain human rights to LGBT persons and women on religious and cultural grounds.  These dynamics have created an  international debate between advocates of "cultural relativism"-those who assert primacy of cultural values over human rights and those who are " universalists," who believe rights trump cultural concerns.

The United States Mission to the United Nations has an explanation of the U.S.’s vote.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Andr塚見s Duque for bringing this to our attention.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

Dr. Cindi Love to attend UN Human Rights Consultation

Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce will attend 2nd LGBTI/SOGI HUMAN RIGHTS CONSULTATION DECEMBER 13th, 2010 at the United Nations.  The task force will further its work in countering the homophobia that is quickly spreading throughout the world, particularly in regions like Africa and the Middle East and explore more opportunities to raise religious voices and support human rights defenders on the ground throughout theworld.  There are more than 80 nations where a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person may be imprisoned for life or executed for being open about sexual orientation or gender expression.

The meeting coincides with several other events held at and around the UN commemorating International Human Rights Day.  Three frontline
advocates from both Uganda and Kenya will be featured at the consultation, Bishop Christopher Senjonjo and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha from Uganda and the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, David Kuria Mbote.

United Nations Update

Thank you all for your commitment and prayers for our work on the United Nations task force on decriminalization in Uganda. With your help, Bishop Christopher from Uganda was able to complete his seven week tour of the USA and Ireland. You can follow some of the more detailed reaction to his visit on the Integrity Blog "Summer Pilgrimage with Bishop Christopher" www.walkingwithintegrity.org.

As a result of your generosity, Integrity USA collected $32,000 and agreed upon a budget to sustain the bishop’s courageous work among some of the most marginalized people of Uganda. Inspired by his favorite saint, the Bishop has renamed his Center "The St. Paul’s Center for Reconciliation and Equality". Now, we are focused on technical assistance to those on the ground in Uganda and sustainability of the work there. You can designate a gift for this work by writing "United Nations" in the note field on our Donate to Soulforce page. We are joined by the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and other leading justice organizations in supporting this work.

We have achieved a great first step and, it is important to understand that the Center and Bishop’s Christopher’s work is only funded through March 2011, so this second and third stages are critical to sustaining the work in Uganda and creating a potential model LGBT and allied progressive network for the region.

Rev. Dr. Cindi Love visits the United Nations

Cindi Love at the UN

Rev. Dri. Cindi Love recently participated in a tour and Consultation held at the Church Center for the United Nations which convened LGBT faith leaders, international LGBT groups, Ugandan LGBT leaders, officials related to the United Nations and others.  In eight hours, the group surveyed the current realities, needs and histories leading up to this moment and moved into identification of action needs on the ground in Uganda, in denominations and in the UN and governmental agency arenas.  

UU-UNO folks put together a final report.  Albert and Joseph Tolton of Blur Media are exploring the possibility of following up on helping develop media projects in Uganda, conversations have been initiated about a consultation in Uganda with the Chicago Consultation, an Episcopal advocacy group formed in 2009, and we expect even more is in the works!

We invite you to download and read the final report.