U.S. to help U.N. redefine 'families'
The Bush administration has joined
European delegates to an upcoming U.N. summit on children in moving to
recognize families "in various forms," including unmarried
cohabiting couples and homosexual partners.
A coalition of Catholic and Muslim
countries has formed to block the change to the traditional U.N.
definition of the family — married heterosexual parents and children
— at the General Assembly's Special Session on Children from May 8 to
A senior official at the U.S. Mission to
the United Nations in New York said the U.S. Mission and the State
Department are backing the delegates from Switzerland and the European
Union in their efforts because so many children today are brought up by
Informal negotiations resume today in New
York on a final document for the summit.
The U.S. official spoke anonymously,
saying he did not want to be "hung out to dry" for explaining
the administration's position. He said the United States supports the
proposal to recognize families "in various forms" because
"obviously we feel this more reflects the families of today, which
are headed by single parents and extended families."
Customarily, U.N. members are obliged to
conform their national laws to the body's declarations, and critics have
said that the European-backed changes would make such proposals as
homosexual "marriage" and domestic-partner benefits an
internationally recognized right.
A U.N. publication following up the 1994
U.N. population conference in Copenhagen indicated that many radical
participants believed altering U.N. language in this way would grant
international legitimacy to such arrangements.
The U.S.-backed European moves will
produce "a donnybrook," said Austin Ruse, who heads the
Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, located in an office
building next to U.N. headquarters in New York.
In the event of an impasse, Mr. Ruse said,
U.N. members would probably go to a "default position"
proposed by South Korean delegates, which states that "in different
social and political systems, various forms of the family exist."
Mr. Ruse said the South Korean position
would not impose an obligation on U.N. members to change their laws.
"I don't know what the United States
is doing," said Monsignor James Reinert, negotiator for the
Vatican's delegation at the United Nations.
The world community's traditional
definition of family has remained unchanged since the 1994 Copenhagen
conference, Monsignor Reinert said, despite efforts of feminist and
pro-homosexual forces to achieve a permissive definition to give global
legitimacy to nonmarital lifestyles.
"There won't be a compromise on this
paragraph. There just won't be," the Holy See's negotiator said in
an interview. "Too many people feel too strongly about this."
The U.S. official with the U.N. Mission
said the change is not likely to help legitimize homosexual unions,
despite the Copenhagen writings.
"I would reject that definition that
some individual person writing for the U.N. would include in a
publication that was not embraced by all member states," the
However, Maria Sophia Aguirre, a
population and development expert at Catholic University of America who
follows U.N. programs and issues, disagreed.
She said the United Nations' compilation
of Copenhagen papers, published in 1996 and titled "Family
Challenges for the Future," listed three groups of families:
"nuclear," "extended" and "reorganized."
"'Nuclear' includes biological,
social, one-parent, adoptive or in vitro families," she said.
"'Extended' includes three-generation, kinship, tribal and
polygamous. 'Reorganized' includes remarried, community living,
same-gender," terms that she said would collectively encompass
cohabitation and homosexual couples.
African countries promoted language for
the child summit document to further the concept of extended families,
the Catholic University researcher said.
"Extended families, cousins and
tribes, is an important concept in Africa. But what [the U.N.
bureaucracy] really means by 'various forms of families' is something
else. Some African countries are now uneasy," she said.
The White House, during the past week, has
refused to comment in response to questions from The Washington Times.
Congressional reaction also was cautious,
with about a dozen Republican House and Senate leaders and senior aides
saying they wanted to see complete details of the Bush administration
position before commenting publicly.
"I'd like to take a look at it,"
said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican
"We need to speak very clearly when
it comes to the family," Mr. Watts said. "I would love to have
a mom and a dad in every household. But if you don't have a dad, it
doesn't mean mom loves the child any less."
But Mr. Watts bristled at suggestions of a
U.N. position that might legitimize single-parent, unmarried or
homosexual households in the context of children.
Despite difficulties with much of the Arab
world over the war on Muslim-backed terrorism, the administration's
staunchest allies in the U.N. negotiations have been Muslim nations
affiliated with the 17-nation Some Developing Countries Group, sources
The U.S. delegation supports a proposal by
Sudan for moral sex education that promotes abstinence, the sources
said. Muslim countries circulated their own position paper stating that
"sex education should emphasize hygiene and chastity."
The European delegates are acting contrary
to the will of the democratically elected European Parliament, which on
April 11 debated and resoundingly defeated a resolution on the
redefinition of family being pushed by their representatives at U.N.
In another contentious matter, the Bush
administration has a tentative agreement to remove language from the
child summit document that would support abortion counseling and
abortions for teens under guarantees of so-called "reproductive
health services," a State Department source said last week.
Last June, a senior Canadian negotiator
told delegates at a U.N. preparatory meeting for the child summit that
abortion services were included in the draft document's three references
to "reproductive health services."
The State Department responded with cables
to all U.S. ambassadors instructing them to lobby for removal of the
In prior U.N. documents after population
and women's conferences, abortion has been listed and promoted as an
option among "reproductive health services," Mrs. Aguirre