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Catholics for Choice Decries Holy See’s Opposition to Gay Rights on the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights

December 10, 2008

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice issued the following statement on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“The hierarchy of the Catholic church and its conservative allies are marking this important anniversary by once again revealing their opposition to the rights of gay men, lesbians and persons with disabilities. As often happens when the Vatican opposes equal rights, its conservative allies have dutifully lined up in support, and are holding a US Mission-sponsored press conference to present a petition opposing the extension of equal rights to gay men and lesbians. However, they represent a small fraction of Catholic thought on this issue.

“In the last 60 years we have seen great strides in expanding human rights around the world. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN member states, including many with large Catholic populations, have rightly expanded the framework of human rights to include women, gay men and lesbians, and persons with disabilities. However, the Holy See has regularly acted to thwart these advances.

“Members of the European Union have introduced a declaration which would denounce discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Unbelievably, the Holy See has voiced its opposition to this move. This, despite the fact that homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty or a long-term prison sentence in many countries. The church hierarchy claims that implementing this declaration would in turn discriminate against those who have religious beliefs against homosexuality. However, the net effect is that the Holy See is denying rights to the marginalized—a core element of church doctrine.

“In addition to its attempt to exclude gay men and women from the purview of human rights, the Holy See has also attacked the reproductive rights of persons with disabilities when it denounced the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While this convention affords a wide span of rights—including those related to the workplace and freedom from violence and abuse—the Holy See based its opposition on two short clauses which call for the right to sexual and reproductive health.

“On this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we stand with the vast majority of Catholics and the international human rights community in support of the full rights of gay men and lesbians and persons with disabilities. We also call upon world leaders to reassess the unique position of the Holy See at the United Nations. No other religious community has been granted the same status on the world stage. And as evidenced in the church hierarchy’s resistance to the rights of gay men, lesbians and the rights of disabled persons, the Holy See is only holding back the progress of human rights.”