Gay rights has long been an issue of deep hypocrisy at the United Nations. Although the organization promotes gay rights around the world, some gay employees’ spouses weren’t eligible for benefits until Monday, when the U.N. took a major step and extended benefits to all same-sex partnerships.
Only staffers from countries where gay marriage was legal were previously eligible, thereby limiting benefits to spouses from just 18 countries. Now, gay employees who marry or enter a civil union with partners from anywhere in the world can put them on the employee’s health insurance, for example. The world body will also cover spouses’ travel expenses when they join their partners on "home leave." Staffers posted abroad periodically may return to their home countries on the U.N.’s dime.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a longtime proponent of LGBT rights, was aware of the disparity between the U.N.’s rhetoric and internal policy. In an article he penned in May, Moon noted that "equality begins at home and I am all too aware that LGBT colleagues at the U.N., and their families, continue to face challenges." The new policy will place the U.N. in conflict with some of the countries it tries to help most. According to Amnesty International, 38 of 54 sub-Saharan African countries have outlawed homosexuality. They also host a large contingent of the U.N.’s 43,000 employees worldwide.
"The U.N. will recognize status (marriage, common law, or otherwise) if that status is obtained in any place where that status is legal," Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general, told Foreign Policy. "The U.N. would continue to recognize that status regardless of where the relevant staff member travels."
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was widely condemned when he signed a law in January criminalizing same-sex relationships, gay groups, and public displays of affection by homosexuals. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni one-upped Jonathan in February, making homosexual acts punishable by life in prison. Kenya, host to Africa’s U.N. headquarters, also has strict anti-gay laws with convictions for gay sex punishable by up to 14 years in prison, according to Human Rights Watch.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |