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In Europe, same-sex showdown moves to UN

The Vatican fears the EU effort might open the door to gay marriage. The US is staying silent.

By Anna MomiglianoCorrespondent / December 10, 2008

Church opposition: Protesters in St. Peter's Square Saturday called on the Vatican to support an effort to condemn the criminalization of homosexuality. The UN will consider the proposal Wednesday.

riccardo de luca/maxppp/newscom


Milan, Italy

The European Union (EU) wants this week's 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to also mark the expansion of the document to condemn the criminalization of same-sex relations.

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A delegation from the EU hopes to convince the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to formally condemn treating homosexuals as criminals. The proposed declaration is intended to pressure the 80 countries that still consider same-sex relations a crime, including a handful, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh, where the punishment is death.

Although all 27 member states of the EU support the proposal, resistance has come from the Vatican, which has criticized the declaration as a Trojan horse intended to eventually open the door to gay marriage. Most European countries do not recognize gay marriage, including the document's main sponsor, France. Only Spain and the Netherlands allow same-sex marriage, although 13 member states recognize some form of civil unions.

The nonbinding declaration does not mention marriage and would carry little, if any, legal weight. But, like the bitter fights in recent years over same-sex unions in the US, the issue is sparking vitriolic debates in Europe. Gay rights groups have accused the Catholic Church of aligning with dictatorships that sentence homosexuals to death. This was on display Saturday, when hundreds of protesters gathered in Vatican City's St. Peter's Square, some of them wearing nooses around their necks in tribute to two gay young men hanged in Iran in 2005.