(New York) – Representatives of United Nations member countries and nongovernmental organizations celebrated Human Rights Day at UN headquarters in New York with a panel discussion, Human Rights Watch said today. The topics were family diversity, and the need to provide protection for families threatened because of their diversity and for individual family members.

The event was organized and hosted by the LGBT Core Group, a cross-regional group of LGBT-friendly governments, the European Union, Human Rights Watch, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

In his message, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said: “[F]or far too long, LGBT people have been made to feel like lesser human beings, as if their lives were not as valuable as everybody else’s. Such discrimination, and the silence around it, was and is a disgrace.” 

Thomas Roberts, MSNBC television journalist, moderated the panel discussion, “Love is a Family Value: Supporting All Families and Family Members.” It included a Zambian LGBT advocate, Dr. Kapya Kaoma; a leading St. Lucia LGBT rights activist, Kenita Placide; the executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Theresa Sparks; and the singer-songwriter Mary Lambert.

The panelists said that greater respect and tolerance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people is indispensable to efforts to promote and protect the family. They said policymakers could help combat discrimination within families and encourage acceptance of LGBTI family members. The panelists also addressed the issue of how governments and lawmakers can ensure that no one suffers discrimination because of the composition of their family.

Over the last year, there has been a heightened level of discussion at the UN about how countries can best meet their obligations to protect members of diverse families. 

“It was important to have a discussion at the UN focusing on the essence of family protection – how to protect individual family members, recognizing that families come in all shapes and sizes,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch.

The LGBT Core Group is a cross regional group that includes Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Japan, Montenegro, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and the European Union, as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and the International Gay and Lesbian human Rights Commission.