A group of LGBT supporters and activists gathered at the United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco Dec. 11 to condemn the international organization’s mid-November vote to exclude gays from executions and unjustified killings while also calling for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide.
“The UN has an ethical and moral duty in its declaration of human rights to protect the rights of all, including LGBT people,” said author and activist Davina Kotulski, who was one of many featured speakers at the protest. “We have got to be unstoppable in our mission to end LGBT intolerance.”
On Nov. 20, the U.N. General Assembly passed a vote that removed an individual’s sexual orientation from a resolution that addressed executions that occur outside the confines of law. In countries where homosexuality is not tolerated, LGBT individuals could be charged with crimes and possibly face execution for their sexual preference.
Among the present activists were several city figures including District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and Veronika Cauley, commissioner of the Veterans Affairs Commission, who is also a nurse and transgender specialist.
“This (vote) is really striking us deeply,” Dufty said. “There’s no question that those of us in San Francisco have to raise our voices. We are here, we are making our presence felt.”
LGBT rights activists outlined the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the first of the 30 articles prominently declared, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The organization its charter were founded in San Francisco shortly following World War II in 1945 and is the successor to the failed League of Nations.
The obelisk featured photos of Honduran LGBT rights activist and National Resistance Front member Walter Trochez, who was murdered in December 2009.
It is believed that forces close to president Roberto Micheletti murdered him because he openly opposed the coup d’etat of exiled president Manuel Zelaya and his activeness in documenting and publicizing homophobic crimes within the country.
“Walter’s death is prime example of what an extrajudicial killing is,” said Michael Petrelis, a member of Gays Without Borders and organizer of the protest. “One year later, no one has been arrested for his murder. It is time to for the U.N. to embrace and protect gay people all around the world.”
Honduras is one of many countries that voted in favor of the resolution, although homosexuality in that country, while punishable, is not a capital offense. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan and the vast majority of nations supporting the resolution were those found in Africa and the Middle East.
However, some countries that are known for their liberal attitudes toward LGBT rights did not reject the language of the resolution.
“South Africa is the only country in the world that prohibits LGBT discrimination,” said South African artist and activist Clinton Fein whose country supported the measure. “For South Africa to vote in favor of this resolution is disheartening.”
The Republic of South Africa is the only African nation with full-fledged rights for LGBT people, yet Baso Sangqu, the South African permanent representative to the U.N., voted in favor of the resolution.
Ambassador Susan Rice, the American permanent representative to the U.N., although not present at the protest, openly supported the rights and equality for all in a speech to the U.N. Dec. 10, which also marked Human Rights Day.
The speeches and gathering in San Francisco’s protest culminated in the speakers and supporters hoisting the universal LGBT symbol, the rainbow flag, beneath the UN flag while singing the Wizard of Oz classic “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”
Acknowledging Clinton Fein’s speech, Commissioner Cauley saw the need to extend solidarity to LGBT people worldwide.
“We need to let everyone around the world know that we care about our LGBT people,” Cauley said. “What affects one of us affects all of us.”