September 22, 2016 at 12:53 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Biden: Discrimination ‘anathema to most basic values’

United Nations LGBT Core Group, gay news, Washington Blade

Vice President Biden speaks at a U.N. LGBT Core Group event in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

UNITED NATIONS — Vice President Biden on Wednesday described the LGBT rights movement as the “civil rights issue of our time.”

Biden made the comment during an event that the U.N. LGBT Core Group, which includes more than 20 countries and the European Union, hosted on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders spoke at the meeting alongside Biden. Caleb Orozco, a Belizean LGBT rights advocate who successfully challenged the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, also participated.

“Discrimination against anyone for their sexual orientation and gender is anathema to most basic values,” said Biden.

Biden said he and President Obama raise LGBT rights when they meet with foreign heads of state.

The vice president noted he publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples before Obama did in 2012. Biden also said 30 states do not have laws banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We have a long way to go,” he said.

Biden also said the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., “reminded us that the LGBT community is still targeted in the United States, just as they are in parts of the world.”

Chilean president to introduce same-sex marriage bill

Wednesday’s event was the highest-level meeting on LGBT rights that has ever taken place at the U.N.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the Pulse nightclub massacre in a statement that marked the first time it specifically denounced violence based on sexual orientation. The U.N. Human Rights Council a few weeks later approved the creation of the organization’s first-ever position to combat anti-LGBT violence and discrimination around the world.

The U.S. and Chile in August 2015 hosted the first-ever U.N. Security Council meeting on an LGBT-specific issue that focused on the so-called Islamic State’s persecution of LGBT Syrians and Iraqis.

Ban said the U.N. system is “moving forward together” on LGBT rights, even though Russia and other countries have resisted these efforts. He also specifically mentioned the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations and bullying and homelessness among LGBT youth around the world.

“These abuses will only end when countries take concrete steps to protect people,” said Ban.

Bachelet announced she will introduce a bill in the Chilean Congress during the first half of 2017 that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Chile’s civil unions law that Bachelet signed took effect last October.

Bachelet said more than 7,800 couples have entered into civil unions in the South American country. She also referenced a bill that would allow transgender Chileans to legally change their name and gender without undergoing sex-reassignment surgery and her government’s efforts to combat bullying and anti-LGBT violence in the country.

“Fighting for LGBT rights is fighting for human rights,” said Bachelet.

United Nations LGBT Core Group, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet speaks at a U.N. LGBT Core Group event in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Norway’s Lutheran Church earlier this year voted to allow same-sex marriages to take place.

Solberg referenced this vote in her remarks at the U.N. LGBT Core Group event. She stressed, however, the LGBT rights movement continues in Norway and in other Nordic countries.

“The most important thing we have to work on is attitudes,” said Solberg.

Koenders made a similar point.

“Even if some individuals do not approve of how LGBT people live their lives, LGBT people are still entitled to the same human rights as everybody else,” he said at the beginning of the event. “That is the struggle today and I don’t think that we are there yet.”

United Nations LGBT Core Group, gay news, Washington Blade

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg speaks at a U.N. LGBT Core Group event in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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