UN launches global campaign for gay rights

by Elise Grafe
Posted 7/29/13, 03:40 pm

Last month, President Barack Obama spent much of his three-country African tour urging countries to embrace homosexuality. Not to be outdone, the U.N. joined the action last week and announced its own global outreach campaign to “promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people, and bisexuals.”

On one end, the U.N. has the admirable goal of discouraging physical violence against people living gay lifestyles. But wrapped up in the same program is an agenda to “change public attitudes” of African nations to align with the beliefs of gay activists around the world. The “Free & Equal” campaign will use celebrity engagements as well as videos, social media, and a new U.N. gay-rights website to promote the cause. Celebrities like Ricky Martin, South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Bollywood actress Celina Jaitly, and Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury have already joined the campaign.

The creators also plan to use personal stories to push their point. They released a two-minute teaser video called “The Riddle,” which shows various people asking why they should feel shame for “being who they are.”

The leaders of the campaign chose South Africa as the launch site because it is the only country in the continent that allows gay marriage. They believe South Africa can hold sway over the rest of the continent, where many countries hold to the biblical definition of marriage, and 38 countries criminalize gay sex.

Obama has focused on gay rights in Africa for several years, asking federal agencies to promote gay rights overseas to the chagrin of many African leaders. In June, the U.S. Embassy in Ivory Coast held a gay pride gala. 

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu supports the “Free and Equal” campaign: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. … I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

But Senegalese President Macky Sall said his country’s laws do “not mean we are homophobic.” While Obama was in Africa, Sall said he did not appreciate the United States pressuring his country, where 96 percent of residents believe in traditional marriage.

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto responded to Obama’s urgings to embrace gay pride by pointing to a higher authority: “President Obama is a powerful man, but we trust in God.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.