OutRight Action International Comments on US Position on the Death Penalty and Impact on LGBTIQ People

Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution titled, “Question of the Death Penalty” which welcomes that many States are applying a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. This is the first time a UN resolution directly condemns the use of the death penalty by States for consensual same-sex relations which is listed amongst other issues such as apostasy, blasphemy and adultery. While this is a significant milestone, it is also important to emphasis that the resolution itself is not an LGBTI specific resolution - it is a general resolution that condemns the use of the death penalty.

The resolution passed with a vote of 27 in favor, 13 Against, and 7 Abstentions. Among the countries voting against the resolution was the United States of America. Since the vote, there has been an outcry by LGBTI, and some other human rights groups on the United States’ position. The media framing has almost solely focused on US voting no on a resolution about “the death penalty for gays”. In response to the outcry, the United States (US) State Department and US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, have clarified that the US is in fact against using the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations, with Haley Tweeting:

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, comments,

There’s been a lot of misinformation about the recent Human Rights Council death penalty resolution and specifically about the position of the US.  The US openly supported the inclusive language on sexual orientation and gender identity during the negotiations.  However, it voted against the resolution as a whole as it votes against nearly all but the most narrowly constructed resolutions on the death penalty.  The US did not change its position.  US diplomats confirmed directly to OutRight that the US remains opposed to the death penalty for consensual same-sex activity acts.

As a human rights organization, OutRight questions why the US still supports the death penalty at all.  What kind of American values promote state-sanctioned murder?  This is not just an LGBTIQ issue; this is about opposing a punishment used globally to target racial minorities, the poor, drug users, and anyone the State doesn't like. The US must change its position and oppose the death penalty on any basis.