The United States was one of just 13 countries to vote against a U.N. resolution banning the death penalty for homosexuality.
The mandate condemns the use of capital punishment in a variety of cases, including adultery, blasphemy, and apostasy. Thirteen countries still impose the death penalty for apostasyor breaking away from one’s faith beliefsand six countries mandate execution for those found convicted of homosexuality. These nations include Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia was joined in opposing the resolution by China, Egypt, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. did not state its reasoning for voting against the mandate, which was a joint effort spearheaded by eight countries.
The U.N. resolution fortunately passed even without the United States’ support.
Calling the vote a “historic moment,” the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association condemned America’s resistance to the referendum.
“It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States [countries] where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love,” said ILGA Executive Director Renato Sabbatini in a statement. “This is a monumental moment where the international community has publicly highlighted that these horrific laws simply must end.”
The vote, however, represents a change in how the United States views its diplomatic role on LGBTQ rights.
Under Secretary of States John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration worked to advance queer and trans equality across the globe. The Trump presidency, as it works to rollback LGBTQ protections domestically, has largely remained silent on international human rights abuses impacting the community. It took months before the State Department condemned the brutal anti-LGBTQ purge in Chechnya.
The president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both declined to comment on gay Chechens being forced into concentration camps in an effort to “exterminate” them.
In addition to the six countries where LGBTQ people regularly face the death penalty, such laws are on the books in several other statesif seldom enforced. Sharia law in five nations, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, permits the execution of queer and trans individuals.
Homosexuality remains illegal in more than 70 countries.