WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2006 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today denounced the United States' vote against two gay rights organizations' applications to join the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The United States joined the repressive, anti-gay regimes of Iran, Zimbabwe, China, Cameroon and others in voting against even granting a hearing to the application of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and the Danish Association of Gays and Lesbians (Landsforeningen for Bosser og Lesbiske — LBL). Instead, the two groups' applications were summarily dismissed without a hearing.
"It is an absolute outrage that the United States has chosen to align itself with tyrants — all in a sickening effort to smother the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Apparently Iran, which President Bush has deemed part of the 'Axis of Evil,' is a suitable partner when it comes to discriminating against gay people."
The governments of Iran and Zimbabwe are among the most repressive anti-gay regimes in the world. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has long scapegoated and persecuted gay men and lesbians. The recently-elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has overseen an anti-gay campaign in recent months, in which many young people accused of homosexual acts have been executed. Also leading the charge against the application of the two gay groups was Egypt, which has persecuted gay men in recent years.
Today's vote to summarily dismiss the applications of ILGA and LBL was as follows, according to ILGA: Yes: Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, United States of America, Zimbabwe No: Chile, France, Germany, Peru, Romania; Abstention: Colombia, India, Turkey Not present: Ivory Coast.
I'm not a big fan of the U.N., and I seriously doubt that having two gay rights groups on the U.N. Economic and Social Council would have done much to change the actual lives of gay men and women for the better. Still, as a symbolic gesture, this vote and our alliance with the likes of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Zimbabwe is, to put it mildly, not a proud moment for America.
More: A poster in the comments pointed out that ILGA originally lost its consultative status with ECOSOC in 1994 (after gaining it in 1993) because its membership roster had included the infamous North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and two other groups that advocate sex between adults and minors. By the time its consultative status at the U.N. had been terminated, ILGA had already expelled NAMBLA and the other two pro-pedophilia groups from its ranks by a vote of 214-30. (More on the subject here.) ILGA's attempts to regain consultative status at the UN have been blocked because opponents believe that it has not presented suffiicient proof that it has severed all ties to pro-pedophilia groups. This is mainly because ILGA has refused to present a full list of its member organizations to UN officials, arguing that such a list could expose member groups to persecution in some countries.
Since the mid-1990s, ILGA's Constitution includes an endorsement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which explicitly condemns the sexual exploitation of minors (defined as anyone under 18).
I think the original association between ILGA and NAMBLA does point to a disturbing aspect of the gay rights movement, at least in the past: a tendency among some activists to view groups like NAMBLA as being questionable but basically "on the same side," and to be sympathetic to all forms of sexually unconventional behavior. ButI also believe it's an aspect the movement has almost entirely outgrown in the last decade, and particularly with the new emphasis on marriage rights as a goal.
Leaving aside that larger issue, is ILGA's past association with NAMBLA a legitimate reason to deny it consultative status with ECOSOC? It seems to me this association has been repudiated enough to move past this issue, and at very least to consider the organization for membership. (The vote joined by the U.S. was to summarily reject its application without consideration.) Furthermore, no reasons are given as to why the application of the Danish gay and lesbian assocation was rejected as well.
Meanwhile, responding to my post, Joe's Dartblog notes that ECOSOC is a useless organization whose record "is a series of 1989-era websites, full of sound, fury, and resolutions signifying absolutely nothing," and whose rejection of the two gay groups will mean absolutely nothing to the lives of actual gays and lesbians around the world. I basically said the same thing. But once again, the symbolism of joining with Iran, Zimbabwe, Cuba and China to reject two gay rights groups is very, very bad.