Vatican Condemns Violence, Still Opposes Gay Rights

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Vatican Condemns Violence, Still Opposes Gay Rights

Anna Wilkowska-Landowska

The Vatican refused to support a recent U.N. declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity, calling it ill-defined and overly broad.

The Vatican said it condemned
all forms of violence against homosexuals, but did not support a recently-proposed
U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,
recognizing "sexual orientation" and "gender identity"
as new categories that need human rights
protections. The Vatican called the U.N. proposal as ill-defined and overly broad.

The Declaration
on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
, is a French-initiated statement
presented to the United National General Assembly on December 18, 2008. The declaration condemns violence,
harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice
based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also condemns killings
and executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic,
social, and cultural rights on those grounds. It is calling for an end
to the laws criminalizing gay sex between consenting adults in private.
It wants all States to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity
may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular
executions, arrests or detention. Sources
that "homosexuality"
and gay sex between consenting adults in private is punishable by law
in 77 countries and gay people can be executed in seven Islamic countries:
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and
Pakistan. On the other hand it is legal in 47 countries, while 57 other
countries passed legislation to protect same-sex orientation. The declaration
also urges States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual
orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held
accountable and brought to justice and to ensure adequate protection
of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles to them carrying out
their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender
identity. The declaration has been recognized as an important step on
the way to fulfill human rights’ objectives, finally breaking the
taboo against speaking about LGBT rights in the United Nations.

Sixty-six of the United Nations’ 192
member countries signed the declaration, including every member of the
European Union and every major Western nation except the United States.

Among the first to voice opposition
for the declaration was Vatican. "Despite the declaration’s rightful
condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual
persons, the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond
this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges
existing human rights norms," a Vatican
In early December, 2008, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s
permanent observer mission to the United Nations, Celestino Migliore,
claimed: "If adopted, it would create new and implacable discriminations.
A declaration might be used to put pressure on or discriminate against
countries that do not recognize same sex marriage." In a statement Archbishop
Migliore noted: "In particular, the categories ‘sexual orientation’
and ‘gender identity,’ used in the text, find no recognition or clear
and agreed definition in international law. If they had to be taken
into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental
rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as
undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing
human rights conventions and standards." The statement was widely criticized, for example by France, as well as
by Amnesty International and gay rights groups and Italian press.

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Fifty-seven of U.N. member states supported an opposing statement. The statement rejected the idea that
sexual orientation is a matter of genetic coding and claimed that the
two notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be
linked to existing human rights instruments, adding that the statement
"fell into matters that were in the domestic jurisdiction of states"
and could possibly "legitimize many deplorable acts, such as pedophilia."

However, Archbishop Migliore
also made clear the Vatican’s opposition to legal discrimination against
homosexuals, which is clearly stated in the Catechism
of the Catholic Church
. "The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the Declaration on human
rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Holy See continues
to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual
persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal
penalties against them," said Archbishop while speaking to a session
of the UN General Assembly.

Following the Vatican’s controversial
opposition to a UN declaration calling for an end to discrimination
against homosexuals, Archbishop Celestino Migliore confirmed that the Holy See
also refused to sign

a U.N.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
in May 2008 because it did not condemn
abortion or assert the rights of fetuses with birth defects. The Vatican
made its position clear on the United Nations International Day of Disabled
People. Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said the Holy
See’s position was "already widely known." Archbishop Migliore said
the Vatican supported the rights of the disabled, but could not accept
a clause in the UN declaration affirming a right to "sexual health
and reproduction" because "in some countries such rights include
the right to abortion."  The Holy See’s position was criticized
by the Italian Federation for the Handicapped.