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Russia and Anti-Gay Nations Fail in Effort to Stop UN from Offering Benefits to Married Gay Staffers

Bankimoon

The UN budget committee has approved a plan proposed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to offer benefits to all spouses of legally-wed gay UN staffers, the AP reports:

In Tuesday's vote, 43 countries supported a Russian-sponsored resolution that called for the U.N. chief's plan to be dropped while 80 countries opposed it and 37 abstained. Currently, family benefits for U.N. staff members are determined by their country of origin. The secretary-general's plan will give family benefits to all staffers who are legally married — regardless of the laws on same-sex marriage in their home countries.

Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria joined Russia in opposing the benefits.

Reuters adds:

Russia wanted the 193-member General Assembly Fifth Committee, which deals with the U.N. budget, to overturn Ban's decision and had been threatening to put the measure to a vote since December.

Deputy Russian U.N. Ambassador Petr Iliichev said before the vote that the United Nations should return to how the issue was previously regulated, citing it as "an example of how the United Nations respects cultural differences, the sovereign right of each and every state to determine its norms."


Russia Attempting to Block UN Staff Benefits for Gay Couples

Last July, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (pictured below) announced that the UN would formally recognize and extend benefits to all legal same-sex marriages of its staff.

Russia is now trying to change that.  

Reuters reports:

UnRussia wants the General Assembly Fifth Committee, which deals with the United Nationsbudget, to overturn Ban's decision and requested a vote on Tuesday. Russia has been threatening to put the measure to a vote since December.

The Fifth Committee website was updated on Friday to show that "action" would be taken on the proposal on Tuesday.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear how much support there was for the measure. The Russian U.N. mission declined to comment.


Cameroonian LGBT Advocate, Dubbed 'The Devil's Lawyer' By Opponents, Is An Ally Worth Honoring

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For the better part of the last decade Alice Nkom, a Cameroonian lawyer, has been doing everything in her power to strike down Article 347 of Cameroon’s penal code. Article 347, like many of the antiquated morality laws first created under colonial rule, punishes consenting adults who engaging in same-sex sexual activities. Currently Nkom is in the process of challenging Article 347’s constitutionality through in two separate cases being presented to Cameroon’s Supreme Court.

“If we unite our efforts and our resources, we will get the supreme court to join the other supreme courts in the world to firmly condemn the use of Article 347 as a basis for legal action or verdicts,” Nkom said to The Guardian. “I need everyone because right now, I am a little isolated. It’s on occasions like this that we must show we are one, united, universal in this fight.”

MbedeBoth of the cases Nkom has decide to throw her weight behind stem from seemingly innocuous situations. Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé (pictured right with Nkom), who is now dead, was arrested in 2011 after professing his love for another man via text message. In 2012, two other Cameroonian men were detained by local police for their outwardly feminine gender presentation. Nkom is representing both of these cases to the Cameroonian Supreme Court in an effort to shed light on the country’s mistreatment of its queer population. 

Her actions have earned her the title of  “the devil’s lawyer” from opponents who view her defense of LGBT rights as an a sin. In Nkom’s mind, however, she’s merely fighting against a longstanding, illegal overreach of the Executive Branch of Cameroon’s powers. 

“Even in Europe, when we look at the countries that penalise homosexuality today, and I am thinking of Russia, we see that the problem is an absence of democracy,” she said. “The two are linked.”

Nkom hopes that drawing more global attention to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights will bring the support Cameroon’s sizable LGBT population needs to properly defend itself from dubious legal charges.

“This is a fight for human rights. Its does not pit African traditions against western traditions or the colonised against colonizers,” she explained. “Africa has the same universal values and belongs to humanity. It is not separate, and neither is Cameroon.”


Russia Wants To Block Benefits For Families of Gay U.N. Employees

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Russia has demanded that the United Nations (UN) reverse last year’s decision to offer marital benefits to LGBT employees, reports Foreign Policy.

Speaking on Monday morning at a UN budget committee, Russian diplomat Sergey Khalizov said that the administrative ruling announced by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (above) last June violates a General Assembly resolution that left it to UN employees’ governments to determine whether employees are eligible for spousal benefits.

2000px-Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svgRussia’s spokesman told Foreign Policy:

“For us it is a very important issue. We would prefer to make a decision…by consensus but if some delegations do not demonstrate a constructive approach to the concerns raised by us and shared by many other member states, then we’ll have no other choice but to call for a vote.”

It is thought that Russia could win if it calls for a vote on the issue, partly because the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) cannot use a veto at the budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee.

The move is seen as a cynical political maneuver that aims to check the authority of a UN leader who has clashed with Moscow over its policies from Syria to Ukraine.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said:

“[Russia] is looking for any excuse to curtail the UN Secretary-General’s authority. It’s no secret that the Secretary-General and Russia have been at cross-purposes over Ukraine and Syria, and the Russians have found the perfect political vehicle for attacking him.”

Philippe Bolopion, the UN representative for Human Rights Watch, said member states “should push back hard against Russia’s backwards efforts to impose on the UN the same kind of homophobic attitudes Moscow promotes at home.”

UN officials say if the Russian initiative were to succeed, it could have an impact well beyond same-sex marriages, risking benefits for children adopted in a foreign country.


UN General Assembly President Takes Swipe at Gay Activists Upon Return to Uganda

Kutesa

Sam Kutesa, the President of the United Nations General Assembly whose election was protested internationally by LGBT rights groups because of his hand in Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality law and comments referring to gay people as "disgusting", returned to his home country this week and immediately engaged in some braggadocio with regard to that controversy, Uganda's Daily Monitor reports:

Mr Kutesa, who is in the country on an official visit since his election last June as president of UNGA, said he has not been mistreated nor has Uganda been depicted in bad light over the Anti-Homosexuality Law, which was struck down by the Constitutional Court.

“It is not a problem. I had been nominated by my country Uganda and the African continent had endorsed me,” Mr Kutesa said.

To drive the point home that the pro-gay could not succeed in blocking his candidature, Mr Kutesa used an adage: “No matter how much noise the frogs make, they cannot stop a cow from drinking water.”

Commenters on the Monitor aren't too pleased with Kutesa's behavior.

Writes one:

"When will NRM ministers learn to show some magnanimity? Kutesa has better things to talk to the press about than dwelling on the past and noisy frogs and a cow drinking water for he is acutely aware that his government is milking the cow without feeding it."


NCLR Hosting #BornPerfect Twitter Town Hall On Conversion Therapy

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Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 4.44.43 PMThe National Center for Lesbian Rights said it's hosting a Twitter town hall today at 6:30 p.m. ET to discuss the dangers of conversion therapy, the efforts to stop these practices once and for all and what the community can do in a release issued to the public. The town hall comes days after the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn, who took her life after facing years of rejection and enduring the harmful effects of conversion therapy. Twitters users can submit their questions using the hashtag #BornPerfect.

Town hall panelists include NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, conversion therapy survivor and marriage and family therapist James Guay, Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis of the the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and co-author of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, NCLR Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Samantha Ames and Maris Ehlers-sister of Kirk Murphy who took his life at the age of 38 in 2003 after undergoing conversion therapy as a child.

NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign in June 2014, an initiative geared toward eliminating the practice of so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy through increased public awareness and the passage of laws across the country to protect LGBT kids from the serious harm caused by these practices. Recently NCLR helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia to ban the dangerous practice of conversion therapy. In November 2014, members of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) questioned U.S. Department of State representatives asking why the use of conversion therapy is still considered a valid practice despite reputable medical organizations condemning the practice.


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