In turnaround, U.S. signs U.N. gay rights document

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The United States, in a  reversal of Bush administration policy, has decided to sign on  to a U.N. declaration that calls for the decriminalization of  homosexuality, the State Department said yesterday.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the Obama  administration, which took office eight weeks ago, would now  join 66 other U.N. member states who supported a U.N. statement  in December that condemned human rights violations based on  sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights  and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” Wood told  reporters.

“As such, we join with other supporters of this statement,  and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of  respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate  international fora.”

Gay rights groups immediately welcomed the move.

“The administration’s leadership on this issue will be a  powerful rebuke of an earlier Bush administration position that  sought to deny the universal application of human rights  protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  individuals,” said Mark Bromley, who chairs the Council for  Global Equality.

The U.N. General Assembly had been split over the issue of  gay rights, with many Muslim countries refusing to sign on to  the statement because of opposition to international attempts  to legalize homosexuality.

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