Europe

UN thwarts Russia over gay staff rights

UN HQ in New York Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Socially conservative countries tried to limit gay couples' rights at the UN

The United Nations has voted to extend staff benefits to same-sex couples working for the UN, defeating Russian-led opposition to the measure.

The UN Budget Committee recognised gay spouses, regardless of whether or not gay marriage is legal in their country of origin.

Previously, the UN followed national legislation on the issue.

The vote went 80 to 43 against Russia's resolution, which had backing from China, India and Muslim countries.

EU member states and the US lobbied hard against the resolution and for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's plan to include gay couples in the staff benefits scheme.

Speaking after the vote, US Ambassador Samantha Power said: "We must speak plainly about what Russia tried to do today: diminish the authority of the UN secretary general and export to the UN its domestic hostility to LGBT rights" - referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Earlier, Russia's deputy UN ambassador Petr Iliichev said the UN should return to how the issue was previously regulated, calling it "an example of how the United Nations respects cultural differences, the sovereign right of each and every state to determine its norms".

Russia drew international criticism in 2013 when it banned the spreading of gay "propaganda" among teenagers.

Conservative national traditions are already recognised under UN staff rules, as UN diplomats from countries where polygamy is legal receive spouse benefits for up to four wives.

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