UN Backs Gay Rights for First Time
Human Rights Council orders report on discrimination
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 17, 2011 5:59 PM CDT
In this 2009 file photo, a gay rights activist in Calcutta, India, participates in a rally.   (Sucheta Das)

(Newser) – The United Nations endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people for the first time today, passing a resolution hailed as historic by the US and other backers and decried by some African and Muslim countries. The declaration was cautiously worded, expressing "grave concern" about abuses because of sexual orientation and commissioning a global report on discrimination against gays. But activists called it an important shift on an issue that has divided the global body for decades, and they credited the Obama administration's push for gay rights at home and abroad.

Following tense negotiations, members of the UN Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favor of the declaration put forward by South Africa, 23-19. Backers included the US, European Union, Brazil, and other Latin American countries. Those against included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Pakistan. China, Burkina Faso, and Zambia abstained. Nigeria claimed the proposal went against the wishes of most Africans, and a diplomat from the northwest African state of Mauritania called the resolution "an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right."