The first UN ministerial meeting on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals was held [press release] Thursday during the General Assembly's annual high-level debate. Representatives from the US, France, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, New Zealand and the EU, along with executive directors of Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission [advocacy websites] reaffirmed their commitments to working together to end discrimination and violence towards the LGBT community. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] delivered remarks [press release] commending the LGBT community and praising the fact that, "many countries have embarked on historic reformsstrengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion." The High Commissioner pointed out however, that major challenges still remain, including new laws in Eastern Europe and Africa that discriminate against the LGBT community. According to the UN, more than 76 countries still criminalize consensual adult same-sex relationships.
LGBT individuals have gained increased rights globally in the last decade, but many still face discrimination and criminal punishment throughout the world. Last month US Secretary of State John Kerry announced [JURIST report] that the US will begin processing same-sex visa applications the same way opposite-sex visa applications are processed. Speaking at the US embassy in London, Kerry stated, "As long as a marriage has been performed in the jurisdiction that recognizes it, then that marriage is valid under US immigration laws." In June Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] signed into law [JURIST report] a bill banning the promotion of "homosexual propaganda" among minors. The law also imposes fines [AFP report] of up to 5,000 rubles (USD $166) and creates the power to suspend legal entities for 90 days for citizens who disseminate information suggesting that homosexuality is "socially equivalent" to heterosexuality.