The United Nations passed a historic declaration in December affirming that gay rights are human rights. The statement, which marked the first time violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity were formally addressed by the 192-member General Assembly, was supported by 66 nations.
Though non-binding, the declaration is an unprecedented condemnation of violence, harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It proclaims that such actions run against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in December.
France led the effort to pass the declaration, with strong support from countries in Europe and Latin America. Opponents included the United States, Russia, China, the Vatican, and the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.
According to The New York Times, the United States rooted its opposition in highly technical legal grounds. American representatives claimed that the broad wording of the declaration could be interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to override states’ rights on issues like gay marriage.
Currently, homosexuality is banned in nearly 80 countries, and punishable by death in at least six.