UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is a vocal supporter of LGBT equality
In a victory for international LGBT equality, Russia has been defeated in its bid to reverse UN rules that give married gay and lesbian staff members equal benefits.
The policy was announced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in July last year. It grants spousal partner benefits to gay and lesbian staff who’ve legally married or entered into a civil union, regardless of their country of origin.
Russia objected to the policy, insisting that countries that do not recognise same-sex relationships should not be forced to give the benefits to UN staff members who originate from these countries.
On Tuesday, it demanded a vote on the issue in the UN General Assembly budget committee, with a proposal to force Ban to withdraw the policy.
The meeting saw 43 nations voting in favour of Russia’s proposal and 80 against, with 37 abstentions.
Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, confirmed to Mambaonline in an e-mail that South Africa voted against the Russian proposal. Nations that voted with Russia included Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria.
Speaking before the vote, Russia’s Petr Iliichev argued that the policy discriminated against a number of member states, as it did not consider their legislative and judicial systems. “The cultural settings of all member states must be reflected,” he said.
Yukio Takasu, UN Under-Secretary-General for Management, said, however, that the Secretary-General had the responsibility and authority to see that the organisation’s values were maintained at all times.
“Tens of thousands of men and women of different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions work for the organisation and are entitled to equal treatment,” he said.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, slammed the Russian proposal. “We must speak plainly about what Russia tried to do today: diminish the authority of the UN Secretary-General and export to the UN its domestic hostility to LGBT rights,” she said in a statement after the vote.
Countries that voted with Russia included Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria.
The UN employs around 44,000 staff members around the world.
* This article was updated on 30/03/2015 to reflect South Africa’s vote on the Russian proposal.