by Michael K. Lavers
The U.S., France and Brazil have blocked Egyptian and Russian efforts to remove a gay-inclusive reference to discrimination from a U.N. resolution on the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. (Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky; courtesy Bigstock)
The U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 13 is expected to adopt an "Olympic Truce Resolution" that calls for peace around the world during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The resolution also calls for global peace during the week before and after the Olympics, which will take place from Feb. 9-25.
Egypt and Russia sought to remove a reference to Principle 6 — the Olympic Charter's nondiscrimination clause — from the resolution because it specifically includes sexual orientation along with religion, gender and other factors.
The version of resolution that is currently before the U.N. General Assembly includes the gay-inclusive Principle 6 language.
"The Olympics is an event that should focus on what brings us together – friendly competition by the world's best athletes – not what makes us different," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in a statement. "No athlete should face discrimination of any kind when representing their country in the games."
Russia's LGBT rights record — including a law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors — overshadowed the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
The International Olympic Committee in late 2014 added sexual orientation to Principle 6.
Brazil the following year spearheaded efforts to include a gay-inclusive Principle 6 reference in a resolution that is similar to the one currently before the U.N. General Assembly. It was adopted ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics that took place in Rio de Janeiro.
"We've already agreed to this badly needed anti-discrimination language in previous Olympics resolutions," Haley told the Blade. "Countries that want to remove anti-discrimination language from this resolution should question their commitment to the ideals that make the Olympics such a special event for people across the globe."
Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBT and intersex advocacy group, on Wednesday told the Blade in a statement the "governments of Egypt and Russia spent a huge amount of time, effort and political capital trying to undermine the Olympics by promoting discrimination."
"Thankfully, it looks like their efforts will fail," she said. "Many more states from around the world responded with their own time, effort and political will to defend the principle of freedom from discrimination. LGBTI organizations demanded their governments do the right thing and they listened. These days where LGBTI communities are under attack in the U.S. and everywhere we look, these political symbols matter. This round, we're going to win."
Anti-LGBT crackdowns underway in Egypt, Russia
The U.N. General Assembly will vote on the resolution against the backdrop of growing concerns over anti-LGBT crackdowns in Egypt and Russia.
Egyptian lawmakers last week introduced a bill that would criminalize the country's LGBT community.
Authorities on Sept. 22 arrested at least seven people who waived a rainbow flag during a rock concert in Cairo. More than 60 LGBT Egyptians have been taken into custody over the last two months.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that condemns the ongoing crackdown against LGBT people in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian republic that is located in the North Caucasus.
The Kremlin has claimed it has launched an investigation into the allegations on which the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported in April, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to downplay or even dismiss these reports. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Putin ally, over the summer described the allegations as "nonsense" and claimed during an interview with HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" that "we don't have any gays" in his republic.
Haley in April said the U.S. is "disturbed" by the crackdown, but President Trump has yet to publicly comment on it. The State Department in September told the Blade that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a letter.
The U.S. on Sept. 29 voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that includes a provision condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.
A U.S. official told the Blade after the vote the U.S. "did support language in the resolution against the discriminatory use of the death penalty based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, while also requesting changes to make the larger resolution in accordance with U.S. law" that says the death penalty is legal.
"Unfortunately, the main sponsors did not take those edits onboard, so we were unable to support the larger resolution, which called for a global moratorium on the death penalty, in spite of the fact that it included parts that we support," said the official.