Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kentucky Equality Federation condemns deleting sexual orientation as a protected class in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

Lexington, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation, the Commonwealth's largest all-volunteer lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex organization today condemned the United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Committee for voting to remove "sexual orientation" from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions.  The action has been condemned by Human Rights Watch (not to be confused with U.S. Human Rights Campaign) and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex Association (ILGA).

Kentucky Equality Federation has been a member if ILGA since 2006.  ILGA holds consultative status as a non-government organization at the United Nations.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex Association (ILGA) is an international organization bringing together more than 600 lesbian and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex groups from around the world. It continues to be active in campaigning for LGBTI rights on the international human rights and civil rights scene and regularly petitions the United Nations and governments. ILGA is represented in around 110 countries across the world.

Representatives from the African nations of Morocco and Mali had introduced an amendment on behalf of other African and Islamic nations calling for deletion of the phrase "sexual orientation" and instead substituting the phrase "discriminatory reasons on any basis" in its place. The amendment narrowly passed 79-70, and then was approved by the committee, which includes all 192 U.N. member states, with 165 in favor, 10 abstentions and no votes against.

A spokesman for U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed disappointment at the panel's actions, noting that the U.S. delegation had opposed the change to the resolution and abstained from the final vote.

Richard T. Jones, Kentucky Equality Federation’s new Chairman of the Board of Directors noted that the panel’s decision was contrary to the directives of the head of the United Nations, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who in September stated: "The responsibilities of the United Nations and the obligations of States are clear. No-one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. No-one should be prosecuted for their ideas or beliefs. No-one should be punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

"It's a step backwards and it's extremely disappointing that some countries felt the need to remove the reference to sexual orientation, when sexual orientation is the very reason why so many people around the world have been subjected to violence," said Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

"Kentucky Equality Federation calls on the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, which includes the Deputy Secretary General, to intervene before the General Assembly votes on the issue in December," stated Kentucky Equality Federation founder Jordan Palmer. "The 79 developing states who voted for the change currently torture, execute, or incarcerate LGBTI people, and they have effectively high-jacked the United Nations; the 70 states that voted against changing the law are developed, freedom loving states. I'm not sure the General Assembly has the authority to modify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without consideration from the Security Council or at a minimum, the Secretary-General."

Palmer continued: Changing this resolution comes in part to the United Nations pulling its HIV/AIDS relief efforts out of Uganda for executing homosexuals, which has been tracked back to U.S. Representatives in Congress, some who deny involvement. Uganda’s actions also received strong reactions from the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth II.

Veteran United Kingdom LGBTI activist Peter Tatchell in an interview with the United Kingdom's pinknews.uk, Jessica Geen, said, "The move was a 'shameful day in United Nations history' and would give a "de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes." Tatchell said homophobic countries would "take comfort from the fact that the United Nations does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder," and added, "The United Nations vote is in direct defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equal treatment, non-discrimination and the right to life. What is the point of the United Nations if it refuses to uphold its own humanitarian values and declarations?"

Following is the list of countries that voted to remove "sexual orientation" from the anti-execution resolution:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kentucky Equality Federation elects Chairman of the Board

Lexington, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation confirmed today that it is beefing up its board of directors with the appointment of veteran activist Richard T. Jones as non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. The members initially appointed Jones to the Board, immediately thereafter, the Board elected Jones Chair.

Jones has been with the organization since October 2009, assisting the the president with administration and communications. Jones also chaired the non-Board Discrimination, Hate Crimes, and School Bullying Committee who has handled more than 40 cases in 2010 alone.

Previously, President Jordan Palmer served as ex officio executive Chairman of the Board in the absence of an elected Chair.  Palmer had previously resigned from the organization, but returned as interim president at the request of the Board of Directors.

"I will be very involved with our volunteers and officers," stated Jones. "I will continue to work for equality for all people and expand Kentucky Equality Federation's reach as the Commonwealth's largest all-volunteer grassroots gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organization and mold our future endeavors and alliances."

Jones continued: "Since my involvement with Kentucky Equality Federation, I have been honored to be able to work with Jordan Palmer and be part of an organization who has worked so hard for equality, but most important, a dream of equality for those who truly have yet to experience it. When I wake up in the morning and begin my work for the day, I feel as though I am helping to fulfill a dream that one day will make a difference for a people who eat, sleep and dream of freedom from persecution."