U.S. turns to Broadway to promote gay rights at United Nations

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States turned to cultural diplomacy on Tuesday to push gay rights at the United Nations by taking 15 U.N. ambassadors, including those from Russia, Gabon and Namibia, to see an award-winning lesbian musical on Broadway. Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the "Fun Home" coming-of-age production "brings home the challenges that LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) are facing every day around the world." "Thank you for bringing this all home in a way that resolutions and statements never can," Power told the cast during a question-and-answer session after their performance. According to the United Nations, being gay is a crime in at least 75 countries. Last year, "Fun Home" won five Tony Awards - American theatre's highest honors - including best musical and best actor for Michael Cerveris, who plays a closeted gay father. The U.S. mission said ambassadors from the European Union, Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam also attended. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has long advocated for LGBT equality but has faced opposition from African, Arab and Muslim states, as well as from Russia and China. In 2014, Ban announced that the United Nations would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff, allowing them to receive U.N. benefits. Russia unsuccessfully tried to overturn the move last year, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria among 43 states that supported Moscow. Last month, the 54-member African Group, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and 25-member "Group of Friends of the Family", led by Belarus, Egypt and Qatar, protested against the launch of six U.N. stamps promoting LGBT equality. The African Group, in a letter to Ban, "strongly rejected any attempt to undermine the international human rights system by seeking to impose concepts or notions pertaining to social matters, including private individual conduct that falls outside the internationally agreed human rights legal framework." (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Tait)