Thursday, March 19, 2009

In turnaround, U.S. signs U.N. gay rights document

Wed Mar 18, 2009 2:21pm EDT

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, in a reversal of Bush administration policy, has decided to sign on to a U.N. declaration that calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality, the State Department said on Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the Obama administration, which took office eight weeks ago, would now join 66 other U.N. member states who supported a U.N. statement in December that condemned human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," Wood told reporters.

"As such, we join with other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora."

Gay rights groups immediately welcomed the move.

"The administration's leadership on this issue will be a powerful rebuke of an earlier Bush administration position that sought to deny the universal application of human rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals," said Mark Bromley, who chairs the Council for Global Equality.

The U.N. General Assembly had been split over the issue of gay rights, with many Muslim countries refusing to sign on to the statement because of opposition to international attempts to legalize homosexuality.

A rival statement read out by Syria at the time gathered about 60 signatures from the 192-nation assembly.

The United States was the only western state not to sign on to the gay rights document. All European Union member states endorsed it, as did Canada, Australia and Japan.


In a move that angered U.S. gay rights groups, the Bush administration argued that the broad framing of the language in the statement created conflict with U.S. laws.

The rationale was that favoring gay rights in a U.N. document might be interpreted as an attempt by the U.S. federal government to override individual states' rights on issues like gay marriage.

Pressed on this issue, Wood said a "careful" interagency review by the Obama administration found that signing on to the U.N. document "commits us to no legal obligations."

Division in the General Assembly over the U.N. declaration reflects conflicting laws worldwide on the issue.

According to the sponsors of the Franco-Dutch text of the document, homosexuality is illegal in 77 countries, seven of which punish it by death.

At a townhall meeting in Brussels earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pressed on her views on gay rights.

"Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy," she said. "In particular, persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously."

(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pope Says Condoms Won't Solve AIDS

by The Associated Press, March 17, 2009 · Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday that the distribution of condoms is not the answer in the fight against AIDS in Africa.

Benedict has never before spoken explicitly on condom use although he has stressed that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS. The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease.

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

Some priests and nuns working with victims of the AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa question the church's opposition to condoms.

The pope also said that he intends to make an appeal for "international solidarity" for Africa in the face of the global economic downturn.

He said that while the church does not propose specific economic solutions, it can give "spiritual and moral" suggestions.

Describing the current crisis as the consequence of "a deficit of ethics in economic structures," the pope said, "It is here that the church can make a contribution."

Benedict's seven-day pilgrimage will take him to Cameroon and Angola.

Africa is the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic Church.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

When Anti-Gay Bullying Goes Unchecked: A Student's Story

From The Progressive Puppy

The boy's name is being withheld from the press, so we'll call him "David." David attended Hudson Middle School in Southeast Michigan. His parents are suing the school district for failing to protect their son...

When David was in the sixth grade, his classmates started calling him a faggot. His status at the school had deteriorated after he tried to prevent a female student from tormenting another kid. The girl slapped David. A band teacher named Crystal Bough witnessed the incident and didn't report it to the principle. Later that day in front of a classroom full of students, geography teacher John Redding ridiculed the boy, saying, "How does it feel to get beat up by a girl?" All of the children in the room laughed. All of them except David, who suddenly had a target on his back.

School officials did nothing.

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