Countries Reject Declaration of Homosexual Rights at OSCE

by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

ISTANBUL, July 19 (C-FAM) Homosexual groups were dealt a humiliating blow at the end of last month by the world’s largest regional security organization.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) shot down a resolution recognizing a controversial declaration on homosexuality by a vote of 24 to 3. Even countries that are usually friendly to homosexual groups deserted them.

The non-binding declaration, known as the Yogyakarta Principles, declares comprehensive special new rights for individuals who identify as lesbian, homosexual, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). The 29 principles were prepared in 2006 by activists, academics and former unelected officials of international bodies.

Proponents insist the principles are authoritative interpretations of existing international law, and have asked international organizations to endorse them. They have had varying success, mostly with unelected officials. Getting the OSCE on board would have been a significant victory for homosexual groups and their international friends because representatives at OSCE meetings tend to be elected officials.

Belgium was confident the resolution could pass. The Council of Europe, with almost the same countries as the OSCE, recognized some of the principles in a 2010 resolution. But the initiative turned into a nightmare when even countries that usually side for LGBT rights refused to support it. Chief among its opponents, and surprisingly to many, was the United States.

Only three of the twelve original co-sponsors of the resolution maintained their support after the resolution was discussed. When it came up for debate, the atmosphere in the room suddenly became tense.

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith with the US delegation was the first to speak. He said the Yogyakarta Principles “contradict” OSCE commitments to religious freedom and freedom of speech. He listed several conflicts between the principles and the tenets of major religions, as well as binding international law. Smith also pointed out that governments never negotiated the principles.

While the Obama administration has declared LGBT rights a priority for the United States, and public statements by President Barack Obama and other officials continue to give that impression, this latest episode may signal a change of direction.

The United States was not alone in denigrating the Yogyakarta Principles.

Poland motioned to remove the resolution from the agenda and not even debate it. Their representative made a surprisingly forceful intervention, saying the principles contradicted Poland’s constitution, and no international body has ever defined the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”.

Countries that grant special new rights for individuals who identify as LGBT, like Italy, which grants homosexual couples special status through civil unions, also spoke against the resolution.

Promoting partisan advocacy would “diminish” the authority of OSCE according to the Italian representative. He observed that it is inappropriate for the OSCE to even discuss the merits of the Yogyakarta Principles. He pointed out how the OSCE recognizes the right of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to be free of discrimination.

He effectively said the principles go beyond the accepted normative framework for human rights embraced by OSCE states, echoing legal experts who say the Yogyakarta Principles do not accurately reflect international law.

Russia and Armenia also made comments opposing the resolution. No OSCE country offered words in support of taking up the resolution, not even Belgium.

Stefano Gennarini is Director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Catholic Family and Human Right Institute (C-FAM). Her article first appeared in FridayFax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM. C-FAM is a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org).

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