Muslim envoys walk out in protests at U.N. gay rights debate


African and Arab states walked out in protest Wednesday during a U.N. Human Rights Council debate on gay rights, saying that they could not legitimize homosexuality.

The 47-member state council was holding a session on sexual orientation-based discrimination for the first time after a historic resolution seeking equal rights for everyone was passed in June 2011, to the consternation of Muslim states.

On Wednesday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab group and the African group made their opposition clear, by walking out during the meeting.

“Licentious behavior promoted under the concept of ‘sexual orientation’ is against the fundamental teachings of various religions including Islam,” Pakistan’s envoy said.

“From this perspective, legitimizing homosexuality and other personal sexual behaviors in the name of sexual orientation is unacceptable to the OIC,” he added.

At the opening of the debate, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon signaled his support for homosexuals and transgender people in their struggle against discrimination.

“To those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, let me say: you are not alone. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle,” he said.

“Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations that I have sworn to defend and uphold. Today, I stand with you -- and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you, too,” he said.

For U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay, it was clear that sexual orientation-driven discrimination was prevalent across the world.

“What emerges from all of the material we gathered is a pattern -- a clear pattern of targeted violence and discrimination directed at people because they are, or perceived to be LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).

“It is a pattern too-long overlooked by many states and one that this Council has a duty to address,” she added.