UN Vote Calls Attention to U.S. Absence from Global Fight for Gay Rights

Saperstein: “It is shameful that the United States chose not to be a part of the first UN General Assembly declaration condemning state-sanctioned human rights abuses against LGBT people”


Contact Kate Bigam or Jason Fenster
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WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 19, 2008 – In response to the United States’ decision not to join in a United Nations declaration affirming the human rights of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement: 

We live in a nation that is intended to be a beacon of freedom and equality. The United States proudly touts our credo of “liberty and justice for all” and condemns nations around the world for denying fundamental rights and human dignities. How then can America stand on the sidelines when offered opportunities to enshrine rights of all people?

In 77 countries, homosexuality is illegal and is punishable by death in seven. However, yesterday, the United States declined to join 66 other nations in a non-binding United Nations declaration to decriminalize homosexuality and to affirm the human rights of all people across the world regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite national shortcomings in the achievement of full equality for the LGBT community, it is shameful that the United States chose not to be a part of the first UN General Assembly declaration condemning state sanctioned human rights abuses against LGBT people. Declarations of this type have been approved by the European Union and the Organization of American States, but the United States remains painfully absent from the international movement for equality and respect for all people.

As Jews, we are intimately acquainted with what happens when otherwise good people are silent in the face of political oppression and violence. And during Chanukah, a time when the Jewish people remembers triumph over attempts to destroy our religious observances and identity, we are acutely aware of the need for decisive and deliberate action to preserve the important Jewish, American, and international tradition of human rights. We call on the United States to reconsider its position and make clear to the world that all people are indeed created equal and that no one should be denied human rights.