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US endorses UN gay-rights statement

Associated Press / March 19, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration yesterday formally endorsed a UN statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure that former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.

The move was the administration's latest in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only Western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the UN General Assembly in December.

"The United States supports the UN's statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity and is pleased to join the other 66 UN member states who have declared their support of the statement," said Robert Wood, a spokesman for the State Department.

"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," Wood told reporters. "As such, we join with other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international" forums.

Gay rights groups hailed the move.

"The administration's leadership on this issue will be a powerful rebuke of an earlier Bush administration position that sought to deny the universal application of human rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals," said Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality, which promotes equal rights for homosexuals.

Human rights groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the statement when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. US officials said then that the United States opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.

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