US government defends voting against UN resolution on gay death penalty
The US government is insisting it agrees with abolishing the death penalty for homosexuality, despite voting against a United Nations resolution on the issue.
The US sided with the Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Iraq in voting against a measure at the United Nations Human Rights Council that condemned the imposition of the death penalty for homosexuality.
The motion, which passed despite the US opposition, condemned the use of the death penalty “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.
LGBT campaigners branded the US vote ” beyond disgraceful” and accused the Trump administration of showing a “blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world”.
But the State Department is insisting that it had “broader concerns” with the resolution, which was critical of the death penalty as a whole.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters: “There was a vote at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and we have seen a lot of reporting about that, press releases that have criticized the U.S. Government’s vote at the Human Rights Council on the question of the death penalty.
“The headlines and much of the reporting that has come out of that has been misleading.
“As our representative to the Human Rights Council said on Friday, last Friday, the United States is disappointed to have voted against that resolution.
“We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances, and it called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether.
“We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the positions of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully, as the United States does.
“The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization.”
Ms Nauert was unable to cite any exact language in the resolution that she was opposed to, however.
She said: “I don’t have it in front of me, but I can just say that if they wanted to apply the death penalty for homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, we would absolutely oppose the use of the death penalty in those cases.”
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.”
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.
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.
More from PinkNews
“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!”