October 3, 2017 at 4:38 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
White House: Vote against UN death penalty resolution not about gays
USSR, Trump era, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Trump administration is pushing back against criticism over its vote at the United Nations against a resolution repudiating the death penalty, saying the move wasn’t about the application of the punishment to same-sex relationships.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson said Tuesday the vote against the measure is consistent with other U.S. votes at the United Nations against the death penalty resolution in previous administrations.

“The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery and apostasy,” the spokesperson said. “As in years past, we voted against this resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach to condemning the death penalty in all circumstances.”

The NSC spokesperson referred the Blade’s additional inquiries to the U.S. mission at the United Nations, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

As reported by the Washington Blade, the resolution condemns use of the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. The resolution passed by a 27-13 vote margin. The United States joined Saudi Arabia and others in voting against the measure.

But the measure also broadly condemns the death penalty — which is practiced in the United States, unlike many other developed countries — as unfairly used against marginalized groups. The multi-faceted resolution calls on countries to adopt protocol aimed at abolishing the death penalty, welcomes countries that have placed a moratorium on the punishment and condemns its use against the underaged, the mentally ill or pregnant women.

Susan Rice, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Adviser under President Obama, seized on the vote as evidence of declining U.S. standards on the world stage.

But an LGBT Republican group maintains characterizing the resolution as a measure against the death penalty for gays is off base.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said he spoke with U.S. staffers at the United Nations who informed him U.S. votes against resolutions repudiating the death penalty are nothing new.

“The gist of the resolutions is in opposition to domestic interests and even United States law when it comes to application of death penalty in all 50 states, and the United States has consistently voted against this resolution,” Angelo said.

Angelo cited additional U.S. votes against similar resolutions repudiating the death penalty: One in 2007 under the George W. Bush administration as well as two votes during the Obama administration — one in 2010, another in 2014.

As evidence previous administrations have taken similar positions, Angelo pointed to a news item from 2014 during the Obama administration referencing a U.S. vote against a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty

The only difference in the most recent resolution, Angelo said, was a reference to a new U.N. secretary general’s report saying the death penalty is used to target gays, people suspected of being gay and those in same-sex relationships.

“This was not a standalone resolution on whether or not the United Nations and its members supported use of the death penalty against gay individuals,” Angelo said. “My contacts at the United Nations have said were such a resolution to have been introduced or were it still to be introduced now, the United States would stand up and condemn the use of the death penalty to punish gay individuals or same-sex relationships, but that’s not what this resolution is getting at.”

Angelo is facing criticism for defending the U.S. vote on the resolution.

Zack Ford, editor of ThinkProgress, accused Angelo of “happily lying” and said his explanation ignores language in the resolution that specifically calls for an end of the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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