The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has voted to accredit two gay rights organisations.
Delegates came down in favour of allowing the Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Québec and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) consultative status.
22 countries voted in favour of both groups. Thirteen voted against the Quebec coalition and fourteen against the Swedish federation.
ECOSOC accreditation governs whether NGOs can attend UN meetings, submit written statements, make oral interventions, host panels and get access to UN buildings.
The NGO committee had advised against admitting the gay groups.
In 2006 the German lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federation and the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) were refused observer status at the United Nations.
Friday’s decision on the Quebecois and Swedish gay groups had been preceded by forceful lobbying campaigns from countries such as Egypt that do not consider LGBT persons to have legal rights.
Canada and other countries argued that LGBT people should be heard at the UN.
Sören Juvas, the president of RFSL, called the decision extremely gratifying.
“The work that was necessary to reach it has shown the need for a clear voice in favour of LGBT persons’ rights in the United Nations,” he said.
ILGA and Amnesty International estimate that there are currently 90 countries in the world where homosexual contacts are illegal.
In several countries, homosexuals risk the death penalty purely on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
“RFSL now has the possibility to, together with others, affect and improve the situation for the world’s LGBT persons,” Mr Juvas added.
“We will do everything we can to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities, rights and obligations, regardless of sexual orientation, gender affiliation or expression of gender.”