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UN Acknowledges Human Rights Violation Against LGBT Community

FILE - Man lights candles atop rainbow flag in solidarity with Pulse Orlando victims, Madrid, Spain, June 12, 2016.
FILE - Man lights candles atop rainbow flag in solidarity with Pulse Orlando victims, Madrid, Spain, June 12, 2016.

For the first time the U.N. Security Council has used language acknowledging violence targeting the LGBT community in an official statement.

The statement released by the Council Monday said "members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, on 12 June 2016, targeting persons as a result of their sexual orientation, during which 49 people were killed and 53 injured."

The language was reportedly met with resistance from Russia and Egypt, two of more than 70 nations in which LGBT status is still criminalized.

"It's important, it's a small change but it's an important change," the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told reporters after attending the vigil at the Stonewall Inn to pay her respects to the victims of the shooting.

"We've tried to promote LGBTI rights at every turn — even brought the issue of ISIL attacks against LGBTI people to the Security Council for the first time, but we met a lot of resistance," she said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror organization, which is also know as IS, ISIS and Daesh.

Other bodies of the U.N. have acknowledged human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, beginning with the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2011.

A first resolution, adopted by the UNHRC in June 2011, expressed "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."

It also called for study to document discriminatory laws, practices, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity around the world.

Though this was a landmark resolution from the U.N., it was only adopted by a vote of 23 to 19, with all Muslim nations present and the Russian Federation voting against the decision. China abstained from the vote.

In 2014, the U.N. secured same-sex partner benefits for U.N. members — a decision that Russia, backed by 43 states including Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and Egypt, unsuccessfully tried to overturn.

Resistance from Russia, China, and Muslim states has not eased in recent years. Just last month, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a group of 57 mainly Muslim states, blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending a high-level U.N. meeting on ending AIDS.

The inclusion of LGBT language in the Security Council's statement marks a small but significant change in the U.N.'s discourse, in which many member states have encouraged inclusion and a focus on human rights in a world increasingly plagued by terror.

"We can see again that the way we defeat ISIL is we bring unity on behalf of human rights and on behalf of peace and security," Ambassador Power added Monday.