The Obama administration and 14 members of the U.S. Congress are urging the U.N. Economic and Social Council to accredit the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission so it can work at the United Nations.
The U.S.-based organization, which has offices in South Africa, Argentina and the Philippines, has been trying since 2007 to get consultative status with the council, which serves as the main U.N. forum for discussing international economic and social issues.
The organization, the U.S. government and the members of Congress believe the group's application has not been approved because it promotes gay rights.
The council, known as ECOSOC, is currently holding its high-level meeting at U.N. headquarters and the United States decided to seek approval directly from its membership.
A U.S. draft resolution circulated Friday would have ECOSOC grant the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission consultative status.
Jessica Stern, the commission's program director, said the group expects the 54 members of ECOSOC to vote on the U.S. draft on Monday.
"Given that more than 70 countries around the world still have sodomy laws in effect and that homophobia is rampant around the world, the opportunity to be recognized by the international community and the human rights standards that the U.N. represents is invaluable to our work," Stern said.
In a letter to ECOSOC, the members of Congress said last month's decision by the committee that accredits non-governmental organizations to take "no action" on the gay rights group's application was aimed at preventing the full ECOSOC from making a decision.
The 14 Democratic lawmakers said the "no action" motion, as well as questions and statements by some member states, indicated that the commission's application was not approved because of its focus "on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
The members of Congress — including Massachusetts' Barney Frank, who is gay — urged ECOSOC to support the international commission's application which would send a message to the NGO committee "that it must review all applications without discrimination."
"Diversity of civil society at the United Nations is essential to respecting, protecting and promoting the human rights of all people and to achieving sustainable peace and human security," the letter said. "Please do not allow the voices of marginalized people to be silenced by discrimination and procedural roadblocks."
Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said the U.S. "is determined to make U.N. committees live up to their founding principles and be true to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights."
"The purpose of the NGO committee is to give civil society a strong voice at the U.N., and that includes the important contributions that gay and lesbian groups ... can make on issues like human rights and combating HIV/AIDS," he said.
Stern said Egypt, which proposed the successful "no action" motion last month, has led the opposition to the commission's application.
A telephone call to Egypt's U.N. Mission seeking comment was not returned.
Stern said that of several thousand organizations with consultative status at ECOSOC only nine are gay and lesbian groups. The international commission is the first American-based gay and lesbian NGO to apply in several years, she said.
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