Why did the US vote against banning the death penalty for gay people?
The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to condemn the imposition of the death penalty for homosexuality – but the US voted against.
On Friday the United Nations body approved a motion opposing the use of the death penalty in an “arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner”, including for homosexuality.
It called for the death penalty to be banned “as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations”, as well as criticising its use on minors, mentally ill people and pregnant women.
The UN motion marks the first time the Human Rights Council has condemned the death penalty for gay people.
Of the 47 countries on the Human Rights Council, 27 voted in favour while 13 states voted against.
The United States voted against the motion, alongside Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
Cuba, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya all abstained.
Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global told PinkNews: “Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships.
“While the UN Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure.
“This administration’s blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful.”
André du Plessis, Head of UN Programme and Advocacy at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) explained to PinkNews: “No votes on this resolution as a whole are generally best-interpreted as a position by a country on the death penalty as a whole.
“It is important to point out that a ‘no’ vote on the resolution is not addressing same-sex relations, but the wider application of death penalty generally.
“The United States, for example, has the death penalty and has a consistent record of voting no on resolutions that are against it.”
He added: “We are grateful for the leadership of the eight countries that brought this resolution – Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland – countries that come from every corner of the globe showing truly cross-regional support.”
The United Nations (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)There are currently six countries where the death penalty is enforced for same-sex relations – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, plus some regions of Nigeria and Somalia.
The death penalty is also carried out by ISIS-controlled areas in northern Iraq and northern Syria.
Five further states – Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and the UAE – permit the death penalty technically, but it has not publicly been invoked. Brunei changed the law in 2014 to allow the death penalty for homosexuality, but is yet to enact the change.
Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director of ILGA, said: “It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love.
“This is a monumental moment where the international community has publicly highlighted that these horrific laws simply must end.”
Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General at ILGA, added: “The entrenched patriarchy and gender stereotyping behind adultery laws are the same causes behind laws that seek to criminalise and execute persons for consensual same-sex relations.
“These laws don’t just affect those with non-normative sexual orientations. Trans and gender non-conforming persons also face oppression and violence because of them. We stand together in solidarity.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently released a report on the question of the death penalty where he examined its disproportionate impact on different groups and its discriminatory use based on gender or sexual orientation.
He wrote: “The imposition of the death penalty for offences relating to consensual homosexual conduct continues to be provided for in the legislation of many States.
“While few cases of executions for consensual same-sex conduct have been carried out recently, the existence of such laws discriminates against the conduct of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.”
He added: “Those laws also send a social message. They have an intimidating effect and can create an enabling environment for acts of violence and stigma.
“The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have expressed concern at the fact that consensual same-sex relations remain a crime punishable by death in some countries and have concluded that the application of the death penalty in that context represents a grave violation of human rights, including the rights to life, privacy and non-discrimination.
“The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has reiterated that death sentences may be imposed only for the most serious crimes and that offences related to homosexual conduct and sexual relations between consenting adults do not meet that threshold.
“The European Union guidelines on the death penalty also emphasize that the death penalty must not be applied or used in a discriminatory manner on any ground, including sex or sexual orientation.”
In the US, President Trump recently threw his support behind a Senate candidate who may support the death penalty for gay people.
Trump is backing Republican candidate Roy Moore, who has refused to say whether he supports gay people being put to death.
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Asked if gay people should be executed, he said: “Well I don’t, you know, I’m not here to outline any punishments for sodomy.
“That’s far beyond any issues I’ve come in contact with. I can’t help what some people say, what some people do.”
Moore has appeared multiple times on a radio show hosted by pastor Kevin Swanson, who is known for preaching that gay people must be stoned to death.
At the event, Swanson shouted: “Yes, Leviticus calls for the death penalty for homosexuals! Yes, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death! His words, not mine, and [screaming] I AM NOT ASHAMED! I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God!”