The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Protection of the Family” with a traditional definition of the family last Thursday, even as revelers readied themselves to celebrate gay pride weekend. It recognizes the importance of the family for society and individuals, and that countries must strengthen and protect the family.
The resolution not only echoes language from the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights about the family as the “natural and fundamental unit of society,” it also states that the family is the “natural environment” for the education and development of children.
The resolution does not sit well with countries that give cohabiting individuals of the same-sex similar rights as married couples, or allow persons of the same sex to marry.
Some countries the United States  among them, rejected that definition and claimed the resolution threatens the rights of individuals in families and tries to impose a single model of family.
LGBT groups and their supporters in the council fought to keep the resolution on the family from being considered. The resolution had been in the works for over a year  but brought to the floor this year.
Their last ditch attempt to include the qualification of “various forms of the family” failed at the eleventh hour. The resolution passed by a comfortable margin, with 26 votes for, 14 against, and 6 abstentions. It was greeted by thunderous applause.
The only resolution adopted within the U.N. that mentions sexual orientation or gender identity passed by a narrower margin of 23 to 19, and 3 abstentions.
The 71 U.N. member states sponsoring the resolution were confident this was the right time given that this year is the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, and the Human Rights Council has never before adopted a resolution on the family.
Supporters offered an amendment to recognize marriage as the “union between a man and a woman” in case the phrase “various forms of the family” made it into the resolution. Saudi Arabia withdrew it when the “various forms” amendment failed and the long-standing definition of the family from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was preserved intact.
A representative from Uruguay—one the of the ring leaders on LGBT rights in Geneva—said the family “cannot be defined” or “limited to a single model.”
The United States was among the 14 countries that voted against the resolution. The “family adapts over time” the U.S. representative said, adding that there are “myriad” family structures, but did not explicitly bring up cohabiting same-sex individuals.
The United Kingdom called for a vote on the resolution—which would have otherwise passed by consensus—and explicitly mentioned that cohabiting same-sex individuals with children should count as families. Argentina said it was “impossible” to define the family, citing the opinion of U.N. experts.
All the countries in the African Group voted in favor of the resolution. Not a single European country that has a seat on the council voted in favor.
A panel discussion on protection of the family will be held at the next session of the Human Rights Council in September as a result of the resolution.