The Corner

Decriminalizing Homosexuality

The U.S. is going to sign on to a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. I don’t have a problem with decriminalizing homosexuality, at home or abroad, but isn’t there a disconnect somewhere in here? For the last eight years the neo-realist, reality-based, liberal foreign-policy types have been telling us how crazy it is to impose “western values” on foreign or otherwise non-western societies. So why is it ok to impose this very Western value? Is decriminalizing homosexuality more important than decriminalizing tyranny? One response, and a fair one, would be that the U.N. wouldn’t be imposing anything. It’s just a declaration of principles or some such. Okay, but there are a few problems there. First, many of the same folks very much want the U.N. to have more power to do what it wants around the globe. Presumably that would include “imposing its values.” That’s what everyone on the left thinks the U.N. should do in Darfur, right? Impose its values. I share those values, by the way, at least when it comes to stopping genocide or mass murder. But that’s irrelevant. The point is that if liberals had their druthers, the U.N. would have a lot more teeth to impose things they can only “declare” right now. Second, it just seems to me that there’s no real standard here. When the Bush administration advocated abstinence and the like on the international stage, it was seen as an example of Bush pushing a parochial agenda. But when Western cosmopolitanism is championed on the world stage, it’s progress. What am I missing?

Update: Quick reader reax:



You aren’t missing anything. I suspect you know exactly the answer.


The UN declaration is wonderful because it is not serious!  The only bad homophobes are Western. 


Let’s send a squad of gay U.N. peacekeepers to Iran or Saudi Arabia to explain this Declaration.


Now, if only Obama can make time between cocktail parties, basketball brackets, television comedy shows, fundraisers and campaign events, he will find someone competent to work in Treasury.


Mr. Goldberg,

It gets worse than that. For one thing this declaration, at its core, is NOT about simple decriminalization (which I suppose is dandy); it is about making sexual orientation a protected class in UN human rights anti-discrimination architecture. As such, criminalizing homosexuality would be illegal, as would a lot of other things possibly including hetero-exclusive marriage. (That is to say, if the end purpose of the declaration were mainstreamed at the UN. The declaration itself has no weight at all.) Furthermore, the counter-declaration was sponsored by Egypt and mainly supported (I think) by Muslim countries. You’re absolutely right that left-realism should dictate that we make nice to them and not shove the work of Brussels Harvey Milks down their throats.


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