LGBT History Made at the UN Security Council

Two gay men who escaped Syria and Iraq with their lives shared their experiences of discrimination and violence against LGBT people at a historic session of the UN Security Council in New York City on August 24. Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee living in the United States, addressed the council in person. Out of concern for his family’s safety back in Iraq, “Adan” spoke to the council by cell phone using a pseudonym.

“It’s about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking center stage. This represents a small but historic step,” said Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations.

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Gay Syrian refugee Subhi Nahas and the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power.

Chile’s Ambassador to the UN, Cristian Barros Melet joined the US Ambassador Samantha Power in organizing this special meeting of the UN Security Council. While LGBT rights have been the subject of several meetings of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, this was the first time LGBT persons and rights were the focus of a meeting of the UN Security Council.

In response to the discrimination and violence against LGBT persons described by the two men and reported by Jessica Stern, Executive Director, IGLHRC, many of the UN delegates called for an end to persecution of LGBT persons by invoking Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Stern observed that “L.G.B.T. rights have become one of the most controversial dimensions — one of the most controversial tests — of the universality of human rights.”

There is no question that LGBT persons and their families are “born free and equal in dignity and rights” as stated in Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The delegate from South Korea said: “No one gets to decide who is entitled to human rights and who is not.”

From a faith perspective, LGBT persons and their families are part of God’s good creation. LGBT persons are children of God and an equal part of the human family. While it is essential that human rights principles and equality under the law be applied to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), it is our hope and prayer that all faith traditions and their followers will treat every person with dignity and respect, including LGBT persons and their families. We’re all children of God and one human family.

(Banner photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)