On September 29, the United States voted against a United Nations resolution that condemns the death penalty as a sentence for those found guilty of engaging in same-sex sexual acts. The US was one of 13 countries that opposed the resolution, titled “The Question of the Death Penalty,” joining such countries as China, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
The resolution “urges states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not imposed as a sanction for specific forms of conduct such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.”
The resolution passed, with 27 members of the 47-member Human Rights Council supporting it, 13 opposing it, and seven abstaining.
“This resolution in Geneva is the first by the UN Human Rights Council – the body that replaced the Human Rights Commission – that condemns the imposition of the death penalty by a state for consensual same-sex relations,” the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said in a statement.
Reaction to the US vote against the resolution was swift, and harsh. In a post on its website, Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb said, “[UN] Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships. While the U.N. Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure. This administration’s blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful.”
ILGA Executive Director Renato Sabbadini said, “It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in states where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love.”
But NBC News reported that in a briefing, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert insisted that the U.S. voted against the resolution “because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances.” And that “the U.S. unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization.”
According to an ILGA report, “State-Sponsored Homophobia,” there are four states (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen) where the death penalty applies country-wide, two (Nigeria and Somalia) where it applies in certain provinces, and two (Iraq and Syria) where it is carried out in Isis-occupied areas. “Therefore, it would be valid to say that the death penalty is ‘allowed’, or evidence of its existence occurs, in eight states,” the report says. An additional five countries permit capital punishment for same-sex relations, but do not invoke it.
The 13 states that opposed the resolution include Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the United Arab Emirates.