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Obama administration to sign UN gay rights declaration: official

[JURIST] The administration of US President Barack Obama [official website] intends to endorse a UN declaration that calls for decriminalizing homosexuality, according to an anonymous official quoted in a Tuesday Associated Press report [text]. In December, the Bush administration declined to sign the statement signed by 66 other nations [UN press release, JURIST report]. The Bush administration offered the rationale that although the US also opposes sexual orientation discrimination, the federal government could not sign a statement which may have bound the US on matters pertaining to state jurisdiction. Among those states declining to support the statement were China, Russia, members of the Islamic Conference, and the Roman Catholic Church. The US Congress has yet to be notified of Obama's decision. Officials who spoke under conditions of anonymity said the Obama administration intends to continue to be vocal in its stance toward defending human rights.

Gay rights have been a contentious issue worldwide with little global consensus. In November, the parliament of Burundi criminalized homosexuality, and the Supreme Court of Nepal approved same-sex marriages [JURIST reports]. In October, the Portuguese parliament voted overwhelmingly against proposals to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST report]. In the US, same-sex marriages are now permitted in Massachusetts and Connecticut [JURIST report]. Earlier this week the Vermont legislature began debating a bill [JURIST report] that would legalize same-sex marriage. In November, same-sex marriage bans passed [JURIST report] in California, Arizona, and Florida.

2:12 PM ET: The US State Department has issued an official statement [text] that the US is "is pleased to join the other 66 UN member states who have declared their support of this Statement that condemns human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity wherever they occur."

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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