Friends At Long Last
By Conor Clarke
January 27, 2006 - 3:29pm ET
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The United States and Iran can't seem to agree on nuclear weapons, but they've managed to find common ground on a different issue: disdain for gay and lesbian rights. In a vote at the United Nations on Monday, the U.S. supported an Iranian recommendation to deny "consultative status"—the ability to distribute documents at meetings of the U.N. Economic and Social Council—to two international gay rights groups.
The story is bizarre for more reasons than one. First—as if the U.S. and Iran didn't make for strange enough bedfellows—there's the, ahem, eccentric roster of countries that joined the U.S. in support of the Iranian resolution: Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan and Zimbabwe. If you thought the U.S. would think twice before associating itself with some of the worst human rights abusers in the world, you thought wrong.
Second, the state department's putative explanation for why the vote was cast makes not a single shred of sense. According to Mark P. Logan, a deputy assistant secretary of state, the vote was not the result of the department's "being against gay rights groups." Rather, he insisted that it was based on "the controversial history of the International Lesbian and Gay Association [ILGA]—an affiliate of the North American Man/Boy Love Association" [NAMBLA] that "was associated with it in the past and openly condoned pedophilia."
The problems with this argument are many: not only did ILGA, an international umbrella coalition of more than 400 gay and lesbian rights groups, sever its ties with NAMBLA more than a decade ago, but the U.N. vote didn't even let the groups make their case for consultative status. The U.S., apparently reversing its 2002 position (when it voted to hear the groups out), decided along with Iran and others to summarily reject the status claim—a nearly unprecedented move.
One's instinct, then, is to call the vote a political ploy. But, as Matthew Yglesias points out , that explanation defies common sense. Indeed, according to a political interpretation, the vote would have to be either a foreign policy carrot of blinding idiocy ("we help you bash gays, you help us disarm nukes") or a rather frivolous attempt at domestic crowd-pleasing ("look here, Pat Robertson!"). It's bad morals and bad diplomacy.
Finally, it's worth noting that the story went almost entirely unnoticed by the mainstream press: of the large, national dailies, only The New York Times gave it a mention —and a brief, 300-word mention at that.
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