United Nations

No, the U.S. Didn't Just Take a Stand for Executing Gay People

Don't believe the hype about the U.N.'s resolution on the death penalty.

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United Nations Building
JOHN ANGELILLO/UPI/Newscom

Did the Trump administration just take a stand for executing gay people? No, but I understand if the internet's been giving you that impression.

"United States rejects UN resolution condemning use of death penalty to target LGBTQ people," says the headline at Think Progress. "U.S. votes against U.N. resolution condemning death penalty for LGBT people; is this who we are?" frets Salon. Countless journalists spread the story on Twitter, and several LGBTQ publications repeated it uncritically.

But the resolution wasn't focused exclusively on executing gay people. It came out against executing anyone. Whether or not you favor the death penalty—for the record, I'm very much against it—this wasn't something any country that allows the death penalty would have supported. The Obama administration voted against a similar resolution in December 2016.

The resolution at issue—"The question of the death penalty"—was approved by the United Nations' Human Rights Council on September 29, over the opposition of the United States and 12 other countries.

The first provision of the resolution, and the source for the outrage over the U.S.'s vote, "Urges all States to protect the rights of persons facing the death penalty and other affected persons by complying with their international obligations, including the rights to equality and non-discrimination." It goes on to list a number of specific behaviors for which the use of the death penalty is objectionable, including blasphemy, adultery, and—yes—"same-sex relations."

But then the next provision "Calls upon States that have not yet acceded to or ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty to consider doing so." That Second Protocol, as can be gleaned from that description, requires that signatories abolish the death penalty.

Still, ThinkProgress claims that "the resolution notably doesn't call for the end to the death penalty. It simply condemns its usage in a discriminatory fashion." NewNowNext says it "doesn't call for the end to capital punishment altogether, but asks member nations not to use it in a 'discriminatory manner.'"

Unsurprisingly, every member of the Human Rights Council that retains the death penalty voted against the resolution. That includes nasty regimes like Saudi Arabia. But it also counts democracies such as Japan and India.

In fact, the United States voted in favor of amendments that would have limited the resolution's scope. Those amendments were shot down, and so the U.S. voted no. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert has stated that explicitly: "We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution's approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances."

She added that "The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization."

Again, I am strongly opposed to the death penalty as an outdated and unjust form of punishment. But this resolution does nothing to end the practice. The federal government is not going to abolish the death penalty because of a U.N. resolution, and it has no authority to compel the 31 states that still retain it to do so either. The outrage that followed the U.S.'s vote therefore is both misinformed and misdirected.

NEXT: A Statistician Reconsiders Her Support for Gun Control After Looking at the Data

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  1. This resolution is no different than the annual anti-nuclear weapons resolution that is only supported by countries without nuclear weapons.

    As soon as I read these headlines appear yesterday I knew this was fake news. I really wish people would stop giving Donald Trump such easy ammunition.

  2. OT (CONTEST):
    Your best, one-line response to everyone’s favorite progressive canard

    “Guns are designed solely to kill people.”

    1. 2nd Amendment protects my right to keep and bear people killers.

      1. Any and all forms of those? Or just the bang-bang types you like to jack off to?

        1. Tony|10.4.17 @ 11:09AM|#
          “Or just the bang-bang types you like to jack off to?”

          Oh! Oh! Look!
          Lefty ignoramus tries to make a funny!

        2. Tony, in the past and on a couple of occasions, I’ve seen you construct compelling arguments to defend your position on some issue. Hell, you’ve convinced me to see things your way on a couple of occasions because you formed a coherent argument based on logic, reason, and evidence. But when it comes to gun control and the 2A, you’ve only strengthened my views because every argument you make is based purely on emotion. If gun control is an important issue to you, then I would encourage you to argue you point with logic, reason, and evidence instead of lame personal attacks.

          1. compelling arguments

            Someone else was probably operating the handle that day.

    2. Tell it to Ol’ Yeller

    3. “What are you planning to do that you think is going to make people try to kill you?”

    4. The Army must have issued me defective rifles.

    5. Yeah, that’s probably why evil people who need killing try to take them away all the time

    6. “You’re Void-damned right they are.”

  3. T…D….S… is all over the inter-pipes.

    1. Trump will be the most maligned president in the history of the country if this country lasts 1000 years and it won’t be because of some media conspiracy. Get off the train. It’s the fucking retard stupid train, in case you hadn’t noticed.

      1. Tony|10.4.17 @ 11:10AM|#
        “Trump will be the most maligned president in the history…”

        Because of ignorant assholes like you.

        1. Even more certain is that in 10,000 years’ time there will still be whiny “I’m the victim!” Trump apologists calling themselves libertarians.

          1. “Even more certain is that in 10,000 years’ time there will still be whiny “I’m the victim!” Trump apologists calling themselves libertarians.”

            Because of ignorant assholes like you.

          2. Well, not exactly.

            In 10,000 years, tourists will visit the remains of the ‘Presidential Orbit’ that was set up to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the Founding. Trump, as one of the Founding Fathers( an honor bestowed on all of the first hundred Presidents) was memorialized by having his portrait carved from an asteroid and placed in an orbit that was updated with new Presidents until the Presidency was moved to a more central location within the plenum around what was once referred to as 6570AD.

            Trump fans routinely apologise for his defacement of the portrait with a gold veneer in the early 7000s but very few could live under the strict limitations of the ‘libertarian’ cult of the early 21st century.

            But I’m not sure how this affects you.

        2. Nah, more like because of regressive, subhuman, white supremacists like you who will continue to empower him to behave in a way that the rest of human civilization finds abhorrent, but that to you people is “common sense”

      2. It’s possible to believe that Trump is the worst human being alive while also believing that the press is full of dishonest hacks who, despite all of the valid material to criticize Trump with, choose to peddle out bullshit lies and misinformation. Trump will be gone at some point. We can vote him out. The media has refused to learn anything from the last year and have only gotten worse. They are why we have Trump. They are why we might have him for longer than we want.

        1. What? Trump refuses the third term–Ivanka goes on to accept both the Democratic and Republican nominations to become the first female president and restores the 22nd Amendment (though it DOES take until midway through her fourth term to do it.)

      3. Actually is already going down as one of the best.

        Trump is certainly better than Obama, Boosh I & II, Carter, Ford, Nixon, JFK, LBJ, FDR, Wilson, Billie Clinton, Truman.

        Amazing how you become a better president by just trying to roll back government and putting America first.

  4. I’m confused; I thought it was “racist” to point out that certain countries execute people for being gay.

    1. Try more sandwiches.

      1. LOL there aren’t enough sandwiches in the world to make progressive propaganda logical.

        1. Unlike right wing propaganda which is very logical. As long as you’re straight, white, “god fearin” and “traditional” (meaning you keep everything you pretend to hate in the closet) then you’re all good. Otherwise you deserve no basic human rights.

          Luckily your heroes are taking away your health care. May your conditions not be pre-existing!

  5. Real easy to “reach across the aisle” when those across the aisle basically describe everything you do as a new Holocaust.

  6. The Obama administration voted against a similar resolution in December 2016.

    Yes, but the black community has a certain relationship with the gay community, so, from a cultural standpoint, a pass must be given. But Trump is an old, white guy.

  7. “The outrage that followed the U.S.’s vote therefore is both misinformed and misdirected.”
    It was informed by the ‘Trump is a big poopyhead!’ sentiment.

  8. If only every member of that crowd a block away from and 300 ft below the shooter were armed too. That would, by pristine NRA logic, had improved the outcome. Agree or disagree, fuckfaces?

    1. Did you drag that strawman all the way from home, or find it on the way?
      Are you determined to show what a fucking dishonest piece of shit you are, or just dumb enough so you don’t even realize it?
      Or both?

      1. He dragged it all the way into a completely unrelated thread.

    2. Hmm? Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of this awesome 19-ton truck I just bought.

  9. But then the next provision “Calls upon States that have not yet acceded to or ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty to consider doing so.” That Second Protocol, as can be gleaned from that description, requires that signatories abolish the death penalty.

    Still, ThinkProgress claims that “the resolution notably doesn’t call for the end to the death penalty. It simply condemns its usage in a discriminatory fashion.” NewNowNext says it “doesn’t call for the end to capital punishment altogether, but asks member nations not to use it in a ‘discriminatory manner.'”

    Not to go all pedant, but it seems this provision only requires signatories to consider abolishing the death penalty. I’m not sure if “consider” has any defined definition in this context but it does not seem accurate to suggest that passing this particular resolution would have placed any requirement on the signatory to abolish capital punishment (not that it would be enforceable even if it were a requirement).

    1. But why would a country with no intention on ending the death penalty sign on something saying they’ll “consider it”.

  10. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the article and the integrity of the author. The author disagreed with the death penalty but reported the contents of the underlying resolution accurately to better inform his readers. More of this please in every publication.

  11. Few, because for a second there I thought we were going to start executing the gays around here because that seems plausible… /sarc

  12. But the resolution wasn’t focused exclusively on executing gay people. It came out against executing anyone.

    That doesn’t matter. Only official victim classes matter, and of those, LGBTQ-whatever people are the most victim-y of all.

    The Obama administration voted against a similar resolution in December 2016.

    B-b-but… DRUMPF!!!!1!!111!!!!!1!!!!!

  13. Actually, they absolutely did.

    And the only defense is the “slippery slope” that right wingers use to make sure the US right to murder anyone (except fetuses) is preserved.

    If there is a *hint* of a *whiff* that “THAR TAKIN ARE GUNZ AND AR GOD!!!!” or “THAR TAKIN AWAY AR *RIGHT* TA EXECUTE (brown) CRIMINALZ!!!!” then you *must* vote know.

    Even if that leaves you alongside SAUDI ARABIA, IRAQ, IRAN AND NORTH KOREA.

    1. Those are also some of the only other countries that allow abortions after 20 weeks, if we want to play that game.

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