After Orlando, gay rights moves off diplomatic back burner

The New York Times reports: For years, diplomats were more comfortable talking about nuclear warheads than sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation was one of those subjects burdened with too many cultural sensitivities. American officials, even if they wanted to advance it on the diplomatic agenda, were wary of offending their allies, not least in the Islamic world.

The attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., moved the needle.

In its aftermath, the United States corralled an unlikely group of countries to support a United Nations Security Council statement that condemned the attack for “targeting persons as a result of their sexual orientation.” Even Egypt and Russia — not known for embracing their gay and lesbian citizens — signed on, after what diplomats called intense consultations.

Earlier in the day, the United States delivered a pointed rebuke to countries that block gay rights at the United Nations, urging them to “contribute more than condolences and condemnations” after the Orlando attack.

And American embassies in several countries, including India, which still has an anti-sodomy law on the books, draped themselves in the colors of the rainbow flag that signifies gay pride.

The Security Council statement, which was drafted by the United States and issued Monday, carries no legal weight. But it is the first time that the powerful institution, with the capacity to authorize wars, weighed in on sexual orientation.

Homosexuality is still a crime in 73 of the world’s 193 countries, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association; in 13, the death penalty can be applied. In some countries, like Egypt, laws against “debauchery” are used to target gays. Russian law prohibits what it calls “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships,” which critics call a thinly veiled measure to harass gay men and lesbians.

“We’re hopefully moving into an era when gross acts of violence are condemned by global leaders rather than when violence motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity” is “dismissed as irrelevant or unworthy,” said Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight Action International, an advocacy group.

Still, she said, the United States will be able to sway others only if it can protect its own citizens. “The more we demonstrate respect for Muslim Americans and the more violence we prevent domestically by passing meaningful gun control, the more credible we are likely to be as a global leader,” she said. [Continue reading…]

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