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85 NATIONS SIGN UN STATEMENT DEFENDING LGBT PEOPLE

In what LGBT advocates described as "a stunning development for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," 85 nations signed a pro-gay statement that was read out by Colombia's representative at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 22.

The statement "express(es) concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity" and "call(s) on states to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

LGBT and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Human Rights Watch, hailed the action.

"Today's statement enjoyed the support of the largest group of countries to date on the topic of sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights," said the advocacy groups in a joint media release. "It builds on a similar statement delivered by Norway at the Human Rights Council in 2006 (on behalf of 54 states) and a joint statement delivered by Argentina at the General Assembly in 2008 (on behalf of 66 states). It is clear that every time these issues are addressed there is measurable increase in state support."

In a separate U.S. statement, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said: "The [Obama] administration has laudably reaffirmed its commitment to the philosophy that LGBT rights are human rights by joining today's statement before the U.N. Human Rights Council. With over 80 nations jointly participating in the statement, the message is clear that hate violence against LGBT people should not be tolerated by any government."

ILGA noted that more nations of the Southern Hemisphere signed this year's statement, and it highlighted the signatures of Dominica, Honduras, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Seychelles.

The nations that signed the statement are Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

by Rex Wockner