Countries Reject Declaration of Homosexual Rights at OSCE Gathering

ISTANBUL, July 19 (C-FAM) Homosexual groups were dealt a humiliating blow at the end of last month by representatives at a gathering of the world’s largest regional security organization.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) shot down a resolution recognizing a controversial declaration on homosexuality by a vote of 24 to 3. Even lawmakers from countries that are usually friendly to homosexual groups deserted them.

The non-binding declaration, known as the Yogyakarta Principles, declares comprehensive special new rights for individuals who identify as lesbian, homosexual, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). The 29 principles were prepared in 2006 by activists, academics and former unelected officials of international bodies.

Proponents insist the principles are authoritative interpretations of existing international law, and have asked international organizations to endorse them. They have had varying success. Getting the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on board would have been a significant victory because representatives at its meetings are elected officials from the legislative branches of OSCE member states.

Having garnered the signatures of 31 co-sponsors, the Belgian sponsoring the resolution was confident the resolution could pass. Moreover, the Council of Europe, composed of the same countries as the OSCE, recognized some of the same principles in a 2010 resolution.

But the initiative turned into a nightmare when even lawmakers from countries that side with homosexual groups did not support it. Only three representatives voted in favor of the resolution after it was discussed. Chief among its opponents, and surprisingly to many, was the United States representative.

When the resolution came up for debate, the atmosphere in the room became tense.

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith was the first to speak and said the Yogyakarta Principles “contradict” OSCE commitments to religious freedom and freedom of speech. He mentioned conflicts with the principles and the tenets of major religions, as well as binding international law and pointed out that governments never negotiated the principles.

The statement from the congressman highlights the conflict between the legislative and executive branch in the United States. The Obama administration has declared LGBT rights a priority for the United States. Recent public statements by U.S. President Barack Obama in African countries confirmed that position. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly gathers representatives of the legislature, not the executive branches of government.

Smith was not alone in criticizing the Yogyakarta Principles.

The Polish representative motioned to remove the resolution from the agenda and not even debate it. She made a surprisingly forceful intervention, saying the principles contradicted Poland’s constitution, and no international body has ever defined the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”.

Lawmakers from countries that grant special new rights for individuals who identify as LGBT, like Italy, which grants homosexual couples special status through civil unions, also spoke against the resolution.

Promoting partisan advocacy would “diminish” the authority of OSCE according to the Italian representative. He said the OSCE recognizes the rights of all individuals to be free of discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. But he observed that it is inappropriate for the OSCE to even discuss the merits of the Yogyakarta Principles, because the principles go beyond the accepted normative framework for human rights embraced by OSCE states ­— echoing legal experts who say the Yogyakarta Principles do not accurately reflect international law.

Representatives from Russia and Armenia also made comments opposing the resolution. No one offered words in support of the resolution, not even Belgium.

A previous version of this article on July 18 did not mention that it was the “Parliamentary Assembly” of the OSCE that rejected the resolution. The article has been redacted to avoid any equivocation.

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