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March 27, 2009

U.S. reverses itself, now supports U.N. gay measure

New York City--The Obama administration has reversed a Bush-era stand against a United Nations measure for LGBT equality.

The State Department on March 18 officially endorsed the U.N. declaration, which calls for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality.

The French-sponsored declaration�s goal is �to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.�

Homosexuality is banned by law in 80 countries and punishable by death in at least six.

According to a statement released by State Department spokesperson Robert Wood, the United States �is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared their support of this Statement that condemns human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity wherever they occur.�

The 13 point declaration is non-binding, but an important step toward getting LGBT issues on the U.N. agenda.

LGBT rights and other human rights groups criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the declaration when it was presented at the United Nations in December.

State Department officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination by sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.

Reportedly, the Bush administration had concerns that those statements could commit the federal government on matters that fall under domestic jurisdiction. Among these were that in some states, including Ohio, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate by sexual orientation. On the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.

But Wood said a �careful interagency review� by the Obama administration had concluded that �supporting this statement commits us to no legal obligations.�

The U.S. now joins all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia and Mexico, and Latin American nations in support of the resolution.

More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, actively oppose it.

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