An update to this story about the Trump administration’s efforts to fight for decriminalization of homosexuality appears below.
While a concrete strategy to push for decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide isn’t yet laid out, the Trump administration reportedly has plans to launch a campaign to #DecriminalizeLGBT people across the globe. With Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Germany — the administration’s highest ranking openly gay individual — acting as the face of the effort, the strategy is expected to be kicked off tonight, Feb. 19, at an event in Berlin.
Hornet has long reported on the fact that more than 70 countries around the world actively criminalize LGBTQ people, which leads to violence, torture and often murder of queer people. (Check out our definitive guide to countries where homosexuality is illegal here.) Even in America, two men having consensual sex was illegal in 14 states as recently as 2003.
Tonight’s Berlin meetup is expected to include LGBTQ activists from across Europe, and those involved will be commiserating on a strategy to push for decriminalization of homosexuality in territories including much of the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.
Why is the Trump administration focused on decriminalization of homosexuality now?
As for answering where this global effort is coming from, it’s seen by insiders as a tool for the United States to rally its allies against Iran, which NBC refers to as “Trump’s top geopolitical foe.” Grenell has also long been outspoken against Iran, which made headlines recently for the public hanging of a young gay man.
Says NBC: “While the Trump administration has had some success in pressuring Iran through stepped-up U.S. penalties, efforts to bring the Europeans along have thus far largely fallen flat.” Gunning for Iran on the basis of its human rights record, specifically its treatment of LGBT people, could be the cudgel Trump needs to finally gain an upper hand against the nation.
How this global effort to push for the decriminalization of homosexuality will fare among some of the United States’ allies — most particularly places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, which themselves currently criminalize LGBT people — is yet to be seen. Surely this newfound global effort won’t win much fervor from Saudi Arabia, for instance, where men are whipped or stoned to death for being gay.
What about Trump’s track record with LGBT rights at home?
And then there’s the fact that Trump has a disappointing record when it comes to LGBT rights domestically. Despite campaigning as a friend to the LGBTQ community, the administration has continually made efforts to erase queer people and enact anti-LGBT policies.
On the very first day of Trump’s time in office, the White House page on LGBT issues — WhiteHouse.gov/LGBT — was deleted; what once bore information about health issues important to LGBTQ Americans continues to be a blank page. Months later, and since his first summer in office, the White House has also refused to recognize Pride Month, a first in eight years.
While a refusal to acknowledge Pride Month may come off more as petty than an outright attack, the Trump administration has also actively loaded federal court judgeships (and the Supreme Court) and his entire cabinet with anti-LGBT faces.
In 2017, Trump’s Department of Justice argued in a legal brief — odd, because the Justice Department wasn’t a party in the case — that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers no protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Trump rescinded two non-binding Obama-era memos, one of which told public schools that trans students were to be protected under federal law, the other demanding that trans employees be protected under the law. The latter has resulted in the federal government arguing trans people have no protections against discrimination.
The Trump administration took the side of Masterpiece Cakeshop during the Supreme Court case that allowed a baker to discriminate against gay people.
Under Trump, the Department of Health and Human Services created a “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom” to make sure health care providers don’t have their religious liberties violated. (Basically a step toward doctors and nurses being able to refuse treatment to LGBT people if they have moral objections.)
Trump has fired every member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, which stands in sharp contrast to his most recent State of the Union address, in which he mentioned a plan to rid the country of HIV/AIDS by 2030.
And then of course there are Trump’s continued efforts to rid the U.S. military of trans soldiers — a ban that is currently in place while the battle continues in U.S. courts.
How do we reconcile Trump’s domestic anti-LGBT policies with this new global effort?
So while America taking the lead on the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide is a great thing and a longtime coming — the highest reaches of America’s federal government continue to be silent regarding years of anti-LGBT purges in Chechnya, for instance — should the country’s queer community, being used as a tool in Trump’s efforts to quash Iran, feel exploited or simply thankful?
Will America’s denouncement of Iran’s anti-gay policies become ironic as Trump continues to fawn over the government of Saudi Arabia?
Ideally the Trump administration’s efforts to decriminalize gay people worldwide would come without an ulterior motive — and without contrasting America’s treatment of LGBT people within its own borders. For the time being, I shall remain hopeful yet demanding.
UPDATE, 2:38 p.m., Feb. 20: During a press pool today with Donald Trump and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the president made it clear he knows nothing about this so-called strategy to push for decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide.
Upon being asked, “Mr. President, on your push to decriminalize homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?” Trump responded — after he asked the question to be asked a second time — “I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports. Anybody else?”
Ambassador Grenell today confirmed with NBC News that he hasn’t even run this “global initiative” by Donald Trump, VP Mike Pence or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “I am happy to talk to them,” he said. “I know that decriminalizing homosexuality is something that people absolutely agree is a policy that we have to move forward on.”
Grenell is also saying that Republicans and religious conservatives will back this global push for the decriminalization of homosexuality, though he didn’t name any by name. The ambassador has said he’s not concerned about resistance from evangelicals in Trump’s base.
What are your thoughts on the Trump administration’s push for the decriminalization of homosexuality?
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