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Thursday, May 28, 2015

UN Head Lauds Irish Vote

“… And of course, Ireland has just become the first country to grant same-sex marital rights through a national referendum. I was not here at Dublin Castle on Saturday night, but I saw the pictures of the jubilant crowd that gathered outside when the official count was announced. And I listened to interviews in which several people talked movingly about their experiences with bullying, discrimination and life in the shadows.

Ireland voted on marriage, but in the process you have also decided to fully include members of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community in the life of this nation. The United Nations will continue to speak out, including through the Free & Equal campaign. You don’t have to be LGBT to care about LGBT rights; you only have to care about equality, fairness and human dignity. Those values are certainly part of the Irish identity.

As Secretary-General, from day one, I have declared that I will make the United Nations the best workplace for LGBT people to work. At that time, these people were working in the shadows. They were very cautious. When I invited the representatives of LGBT staff, they refused to take a picture with me. They were the first in the world who refused to take a picture with me - you’d be surprised. Everybody wants to take a picture with me! I asked why? Why are you afraid? [They said] because our photos will be put on a website. They didn’t want to be identified. So I agreed. I promised that I will keep the photo to myself and I’d only give it to [them] without publicizing it. As time went by, because they were encouraged, they made a calendar - a 12-page calendar, one year - putting in their photos with me. Every month, there were different photos. So they feel that their rights and human dignity are protected. Now for the first time again this last year I changed my administrative bulletin that those same-sex married couples will be given the same financial entitlements. That was historic. You may not know how hard I [fought]. There was serious fighting within the General Assembly. Some Member States submitted a draft resolution to reverse, to kill my decision. Their argument was that I was acting beyond my own authority. Fortunately, that resolution was defeated by the majority of the Member States. In fact, I did this first before you had your national referendum! So I’m proud that the United Nations is leading this campaign.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, May 25, 2015.

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