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By Culturekiosque Staff

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, 28 JUNE 2011 — In a news alert on 17 June 2011, The United Nations Human Rights Council expressed grave concern at the violence and discrimination experienced by people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and called for a global study to document the suffering they face. In a resolution adopted narrowly in Geneva, the Council asked the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to carry out a study by December that details "discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world."

The resolution calls on the study to also consider "how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Twenty-three countries voted in favour of the resolution, 19 countries voted against, and three others abstained.

A month ago UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that hate crimes against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people were on the rise around the world. Ms. Pillay stressed that homophobia and transphobia were no different to sexism, racism or xenophobia.

"But whereas these last forms of prejudice are universally condemned by governments, homophobia and transphobia are too often overlooked," she said.

Today’s resolution notes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that everyone is equal and entitled to the same rights and freedoms, regardless of their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The text said the Council will convene a future panel discussion based on the facts contained in the study and have "constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity."

Meanwhile, two days earlier on 15 June,  the state of New York in the United States announced the passage of the historic Marriage Equality Act, a measure that will allow same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples. 

The bill (A.8354/O'Donnell), a governor's program bill, would amend the Domestic Relations Law to give same-sex couples the opportunity to legally wed in New York State and make all provisions of state law applicable to same-sex marriages. The legislation also reiterates that no member of the clergy may be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony.

The American states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia also permit same-sex marriages. Currently New York, as well as Rhode Island and Maryland, recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states.

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