A resolution read at the United Nations General Assembly that addressed rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity has proven controversial.

Thursday's resolution calling for the universal decriminalization of being gay was met with an equally forceful, Arab-backed statement opposing it.

The pro-gay statement – initiated by France and the Netherlands – gathered 66 signatures after it was read in the chamber, but an anti-gay statement, read out by a Syrian delegate, gathered 60, reports the Reuters news agency. Approximately one-third of all nations, including the U.S., pledged onto neither.

The Arab-backed statement condemned homosexuality: “[Decriminalizing homosexuality could lead] to the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia.”

“We note with concern the attempts to create 'new rights' or 'new standards', by misinterpreting the Universal Declaration and internal treaties to include such notions that were never articulated nor agreed by the general membership,” it added.

The pro-gay statement condemns violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And declares that targeting gays for executions or killings, torture, arbitrary arrest or deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights is wrong.

More than 80 countries have laws against homosexuality, including nine that prescribe death as punishment.  Many of these countries are located in Africa and the Middle East.

A Human Rights Watch report delivered on December 17 found that more than half of the world's remaining laws criminalizing being gay are relics of British colonial rule.

The roots of anti-gay laws from nearly 40 countries can be traced back to a single instance imposed by British colonial rulers on India in 1860, say the authors of This Alien Legacy: The Origins of “Sodomy” Laws in British Colonialism. Ironically, homosexuality remains illegal in India, where the UN has pressured a high court to abolish the practice. A decision is expected early next year.

“From Malaysia to Uganda, governments use these laws to harass civil society, restrict free expression, discredit enemies, and destroy lives,” said Scott Long, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch. “And sodomy laws add to the spread of HIV/AIDS by criminalizing outreach to affected groups.

Gay rights leaders in the United States were appalled to learn of the Vatican's opposition to the resolution because it might promote gay marriage.

“As faith leaders we were shocked by Vatican opposition to this proposed initiative,” a coalition of gay rights leaders said in a statement. “Most Catholics, and indeed most Catholic teachings, tell us that all people are entitled to live with basic human dignity without the threat of violence.”

The statement signed on by the Human Rights Campaign, along with faith program directors from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and National Black Justice Coalition also urged “U.S. leaders to stand against discrimination.”

In the end, no resolution was drafted on the issue and the two seemingly contradictory statements remain open for further signatures.

Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO), who believes that the gay community will not advanced until societal homophobia is eradicated said: “It is a great achievement that this initiative has made it to the level of the General Assembly. It shows our common struggles are successful and should be reinforced.”