WASHINGTON – The Obama administration's role in the accreditation of a U.S.-based gay rights group by the United Nations is "distressing," says a Southern Baptist public policy leader.
After strong lobbying from the Obama administration, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission was given consultative status by the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Monday. ECOSOC voted 23-13, with 13 abstentions, to allow the gay rights group to attend U.N. meetings and submit statements to U.N. agencies and governments.
"It is extremely distressing that the Obama administration would exert extraordinary pressure on the United Nations to gain membership for a group that is so obviously opposed to the foundational American principle of freedom of speech," said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at The Ethics Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, on Friday.
Duke told The Christian Post that the IGLHRC's admittance into the United Nations serves as a reminder of why it is important for evangelical groups to also engage with the global body. The ERLC, noted Duke, also has consultative status with the United Nations with the purpose of making the evangelical perspective known to the United Nations as it develops policies.
IGLHRC had applied for consultative status with the ECOSOC since 2007. The group credits the U.S. government for their admittance, noting how it stood "strongly behind" its application for its approval. Fourteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives and four senators sent letters to all U.N. member states to support IGLHRC's application, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who is chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
IGLHRC is now the tenth LGBT human rights group to gain consultative status at the United Nations.
President Obama, in a statement, congratulated IGLHRC for taking its "rightful seat" at the United Nations. With its inclusion, the United Nation is "closer to the ideals on which it was founded," Obama said, and to the "values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed."
Jessica Stern, program director of IGLHRC, told The Associated Press on Monday that the recognition by the United Nations will help the group's work. She noted that more than 70 countries have sodomy laws and homophobia is widespread in the world.
The United Nation's approval of IGLHRC's application marks the latest gay rights victory orchestrated by the Obama administration.
In April, President Obama ordered the extension of hospital visitation and health care decision rights to same-sex couples - a policy change that was even largely supported by the evangelical community. Evangelical groups and figures such as Focus on the Family and Pastor Joel C. Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed in Orlando publicly expressed their support for the Presidential Memorandum regarding hospital visitation for same-sex partners.
Less accepted by the evangelical community is the Obama administration's current push to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
As for those within the gay community, many have complained that Obama is moving too slow on repealing DADT, but military leaders recommend taking time to carefully analyze what impact the change in policy will have on the armed forces.
Repealing DADT is among the top legislative priority of gay rights groups.
As a presidential candidate and since coming to office, Obama has promised to advance gay rights in America. The LGBT is among President Obama's strongest supporters.