U.N. rights forum proclaims equal gay rights

Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:10pm EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights body declared Friday there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation, a vote Western countries called historic but Islamic states firmly rejected.

The controversial resolution marked the first time that the Human Rights Council recognized the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, diplomats said.

The text, presented by South Africa, was adopted by 23 countries in favor, 19 against with 3 abstentions and one delegation absent during voting. Libya's membership in the 47-member Geneva forum was suspended in March.

"All over the world, people face human rights abuses and violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and killing," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement issued in Washington.

"Today's landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal," she said, calling it a "historic moment."

The White House later praised the vote as a "significant milestone in the long struggle for equality," and said: "The United States stands proudly with those nations that are standing up to intolerance, discrimination and homophobia."

Britain, France joined the United States in voting in favor, while Russia voted against and China abstained, results showed.

South African Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila said the aim was for a dialogue on discrimination and violence meted out to those "whose only crime seems to be their choice in life."   Continued...

<p>Participants walk during the Rainbow Pride Parade in Bratislava June 4, 2011. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa</p>