Russia moves to stop same-sex spouses receiving UN staff benefits

The Guardian explains that Russia asks UN to put recognition of same-sex marriage for 43,000 staff worldwide to a vote, in attempt to thwart policy change.

Russia is attempting to stop the United Nations extending staff benefits to same-sex spouses.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced in July 2014 it would recognise same-sex marriages among its 43,000 staff worldwide, allowing them to receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Before the change of policy, UN workers’ personal status was determined by the laws of their country of nationality.

However, the body now recognises same-sex couples married in a country where it is legal, regardless of their nationality.

Russia wants the general assembly’s fifth committee, which is responsible for the UN budget, to overturn Ban’s decision and has asked for a vote on Tuesday. The fifth committee website states that action would be taken on the proposal on Tuesday.

Diplomats said it was unclear how much support there was for the measure, which Russia has been threatening to put to a vote since December. The Russian UN mission declined to comment.

UN-Globe, an organisation representing the UN’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff, has long campaigned for legal same-sex unions to be recognised by all parts of the UN. The measure brought in last year does not extend to employees of UN agencies, such as Unicef or Unesco.

A UN-Globe spokesman said it was been actively seeking to defeat the Russian moves and supported Ban’s decision last year to widen staff benefits, which it had “fought hard for”.

Ban has been a vocal supporter of LGBT rights since taking up his role, and condemned attacks and discrimination against gay people shortly before last year’s winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Russia triggered global criticism in 2013 when President Vladimir Putin signed into law a ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to children. Critics denounced the law as discriminatory and said it restricted free speech and assembly.

A few months after its introduction the law was blamed by LGBT groups for asharp rise in homophobic vigilantism.

Putin has claimed there is no anti-gay discrimination in Russia, which decriminalised homosexuality in 1993.

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