UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay released a video Thursday that details how the United Nations came to take up the issue of gay civil rights.
The question of civil rights for gay people was brought before the UN when, in the early 1990s, Tasmanian gay rights activist Nick Toonen launched a discrimination case with the UN over his country’s anti-gay laws. In 1994 the UN upheld his complaint, a decision that would reverbarate around the world because it was the first time the UN had acknowledged that the right to live a life free from discrimination applies regardless of sexual orientation.
In the video below Commissioner Pillay discusses the history of the UN’s stand on gay rights and the work that is still to be done in the wider LGBT rights field.
Nick Toonen said he was proud to have been involved in such an important moment in the advancement of human rights.
“It’s humbling that so many people around the world have benefitted from the decision in my case”, Mr Toonen said.
“The obvious message from the case was that gay rights are human rights, but equally important was the message that everyday people like me can take effective action to protect human rights.”
“My case was very much a group effort and I want to acknowledge everyone who fought for gay law reform in Tasmania as well as the many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world who continue to fight for their rights and their lives.”
Following the UN’s 1994 decision, Tasmania’s federal government passed the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act which rendered state law banning same-sex sexual relations outmoded. As such, LGBT rights activists took a case before the High Court to have those antiquated state laws struck down, and the state level bans were finally repealed in 1997. Tasmania has since gone on to adopt some of the most progressive LGBT rights legislation in Australia.