Sixty-six countries Thursday called on the United Nations to urge members to decriminalize homosexuality, a position rejected by several Arab countries and the Vatican.
A declaration of the rights of gays was submitted to the U.N. General Assembly for the first time by the ambassador of Argentina, Jorge Arguello, representing 66 of the world body's 192 countries.
"We urge states to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention," the draft document says.
The appeal is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in Article One that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
The document reaffirms "that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
The 66 countries that signed the document "are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity," it said.
In addition, they are "disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity."
The signatories "condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur," especially "the use of the death penalty on this ground" as well as their "arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health."
After the draft was read, Netherlands Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade held a high-level meeting to support the resolution.