September 24, 2019 at 11:11 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Luxembourg prime minister makes history at UN General Assembly
Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Sept. 24, 2019, made history when he became the first out head of government to speak about LGBTI-specific issues at a U.N. General Assembly. Bettel was among those who spoke at a U.N. LGBTI Core Group event. (Photo by Julien Becker; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Tuesday became the first out head of government to speak about LGBTI-specific issues at a U.N. General Assembly.

“Being gay is not a choice, but not accepting it is a choice,” said Bettel at an U.N. LGBTI Core Group event that focused on efforts to end anti-LGBTI hate speech in social and traditional media, according to a tweet from Luxembourg’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. “Homophobia is a choice and we have to fight against it!”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who is the former president of Chile, also spoke at the event alongside others who include OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern and Sam Brinton of the Trevor Project. Geena Rocero, a Filipina model and transgender rights activist, is among those who were in attendance.

The event took place hours after President Trump delivered his address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Trump referenced his administration’s campaign that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, even though the White House’s LGBTI rights record in the U.S. and overall foreign policy continues to spark outrage.

The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has emerged as a vocal champion of LGBTI rights around the world in recent years. The U.S. nevertheless remains a member of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby and Courtney Nemeroff of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. attended Tuesday’s event, but did not have a chance to speak.

Trump, Pence, Pompeo speak at UN religious freedom event

Religious freedom is among the other issues that Trump raised in his U.N. General Assembly speech. Trump, along with Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are among those who spoke at a first-of-its-kind religious freedom event at the U.N. that took place on Monday.

“As president, protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities and always has been,” said Trump.

The State Department earlier this year created the Commission on Unalienable Rights that stresses “natural law and natural rights.” Pompeo in July named Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor who is known for her opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, as its chair.

“The Bible says that, ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things,’” said Pompeo at the U.N. religious freedom event. “And that’s what we are all doing here today.”

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

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