After gay rights event, Annan calls for tolerance, laments bias 'on any grounds'

5 August 2003

While deploring any kind of prejudice and discrimination and speaking out for people's right to make their own choices, Secretary-General Kofi Annan feels the United Nations should not involve itself in the dispute over the issues of same sex marriage, a spokesman for Mr. Annan said today.

"He believes that the United Nations cannot condone any persecution of, or discrimination against, people on any grounds, and recalls Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that 'Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind'," spokesman Fred Eckhard said in a statement following the Secretary-General's participation in an event at UN Headquarters in New York focused on protecting the rights of lesbians and gays around the world.

"On the issue of same sex marriage, his personal view, as stated in last week's press conference, is 'that individuals should be allowed to make their own choices and that we should be careful not to draw conclusions, or adopt prejudicial attitudes, towards people for their choices and preferences'," the statement added.

"However, he recognizes that there is a wide range of opinion on the issue among Member States, with very strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and he does not believe this is something the United Nations should get involved in," the spokesman said.

He noted that Mr. Annan was glad to be able to attend part of last night's event organized by the UN Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees Organization (GLOBE).

On the specific issue of the rights of gay and lesbian UN staff members, the Secretary-General "intends to act on the Organization's long established principle that matters of personal status should be determined by reference to the law of the staff member's nationality," the statement said.

In impromptu remarks at the event, Mr. Annan declared: "We should be much more tolerant and compassionate. And I think what is important is that we should stress those positive aspects in our society, the things that bring us together, and move away from discrimination and persecution."

"And we also heard your message about rights, and we have rules here that we are looking at that affect some of these things. So, welcome to the UN," he added.

 

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