The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) is an international organization bringing together more than 400 lesbian and gay groups from around the world. It continues to be active in campaigning for gay rights on the international human rights and civil rights scene and regularly petitions the United Nations and governments. ILGA is represented in around 90 countries across the world.
The ILGA was founded on 8 August 1978 during the conference of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in Coventry, England, at a meeting attended by 30 men representing 17 organisations from 14 countries. It was first called the International Gay Association (IGA) but changed its name to ILGA in 1986. ILGA was not the first Gay and Lesbian association. The first known gay rights organization was "The Society for Human Rights" in Chicago-- circa 1924.
The Coventry conference also called upon Amnesty International (AI) to take up the issue of persecution of lesbians and gays. After a campaign that lasted 13 years AI in 1991 made the human rights of lesbians and gays part of its mandate and today is a passionate advocate for LGBT rights on the international level.
ILGA was also instrumental in getting the World Health Organisation to drop homosexuality from its list of illnesses.
ILGA was the first lesbian and gay rights organisation to gain "consultative status" as a non-governmental organisation at the United Nations. Statements were made in the name of ILGA in the 1993 and 1994 sessions of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and in the 1994 session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. ILGA’s NGO status was suspended in September 1994.
The United Nations Aids Program, UNAIDS, indicated that it would not give funding to any project linked to ILGA because of the controversy. Currently, the only gay rights NGO at ECOSOC is the Australian Coalition of Activist Lesbians, which gained consultative status in 1999.
The Council of Europe responded to ILGA's long standing request for consultative status with an inquiry about the reasons for the suspension by the United Nations. The Council of Europe granted consultative status in late 1997.
ILGA's European section is also accredited at and partially financed by the European Commission.
Following this ILGA, by a vote of 214-30 expelled NAMBLA and two other groups (MARTIJN and Project Truth) in early 1994 because they were judged to be "groups whose predominant aim is to support or promote pedophilia." In October 1994, the executive committee of ILGA suspended the membership of VSG (Association for Sexual Equality), a gay group in Munich, Germany, due to its vocal solidarity with NAMBLA and its refusal to purge pedophile members. Its membership was suspended until the next Annual Conference of ILGA in June 1995 when the matter could be dealt with in accordance to ILGA's constitution, namely, expulsion. VSG left ILGA in April 1995 and in 1998 dissolved itself.
ILGA applied to have its consultative status reinstated in 2000 , but on 30 April 2002 the United Nations' Economic & Social Council voted 29-17 not to grant this application, "based on concerns raised about its member organizations or subsidiaries that promoted or condoned paedophilia".
One of the issues of concern was whether it was possible to verify that links with NAMBLA had effectively been severed due to ILGA not publishing its organisation membership list given fears for the safety of members living in countries where homosexuality is still criminalised.
On 3 May 2003, ECOSOC voted to again decline consultative status to ILGA. ILGA submitted another application, along with another LGBT rights organisation but it was rejected on 23 January 2006 at the Committee of NGOs. ILGA keeps the view that the summary dismissal of LGBT rights organisations' applications was influenced by Egypt and OIC.
However in the subsequent vote on the candidature of ILGA-Europe, the U.S. reversed its position, though the proposal was still defeated, with:
The next world conference was to be in Quebec City, the capital of Quebec, in May 2008, but has been postponed, and will be rescheduled later in the year
In 2010, it will be in Moscow.