The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted this week on a US-led initiative to accredit the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). The move effectively bypassed a subsidiary committee’s decision to defer action on the group until it answered questions about its support of new homosexual ‘rights,’ which many Member States believe directly conflict with recognized rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
The Obama administration has been an active champion of IGLHRC’s application to the UN since the June meeting of the committee on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) when US representatives insisted on an immediate vote on IGLHRC even though other committee members still had unanswered questions. In response to the US attempt to force a decision, Egypt called for a procedural “no action” motion.
Opposition to IGLHRC’s application centers around the group’s endorsement of a document called the Yogyakarta Principles, a document which calls for “sexual orientation and gender identity” to be new categories of nondiscrimination in UN human rights treaties. Among other things the Yogyakarta Principles calls for criminal penalties against those who criticize homosexuality.
Prior to the vote, US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo argued that the group should be given status because the organization fulfills all the criteria for ECOSOC status and had answered all the questions posed to it by the NGO committee and blasting member states that supported the June no-action motion. The Egyptian representative said all his government’s questions were not answered and charged the group with being evasive on questions of religious freedom and freedom of expression, fundamental tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter.
A number of UN member states have expressed growing concern about clergy members being charged with “hate speech” for preaching traditional religious teachings on sexual morality. In June, one member of the NGO committee asked IGLHRC “if a religion teaches that sexual relations other than between a man and a woman within wedlock is wrong, would IGLHRC support the prosecution of a religious preacher for what he or she preaches against homosexuality?” IGLHRC has refused to answer the question.
The resolution to grant IGLHRC accreditation passed with 23 in favor, 13 against, 13 abstentions, with 5 absences.
The ECOSOC Council has overturned seven other NGO Committee decisions to reject the applications of homosexual rights groups in the last decade. This week’s vote, however, marks the first time that the ECOSOC council has granted accreditation without a prior NGO Committee decision on the application.
In the weeks prior to the ECOSOC vote, UN member states were bombarded by lobbying campaigns organized by homosexual rights groups. One delegate said their mission received several phone calls from one of the US ambassadors prior to the vote.
The IGLHRC application has been a priority action for the Obama administration with four official statements on IGLHRC’s application on the US mission website, including a statement from President Obama who said that he “welcomed” the approval of IGLHRC and saw it as an “important step forward for human rights, as [IGLHRC] will take its rightful seat at the table of the United Nations.”