This story seems like something you’d read in The Onion or another satire publication. Sadly, it’s not.
President Trump has announced a new initiative aimed at bringing an end to the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide.
And in a move that shows nothing other than a total hatred for all things “Trump”, LGBTQ groups have attacked the campaign.
The campaign is being spearheaded by Richard Grenell, the openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany. It began after a 32-year-old man was publicly hanged on January 10 in the Southwestern Iranian city of Kazeroon, after being found guilty of homosexuality.
That man was one of more than 6,000 alleged to have been executed under the Islamic republic’s Sharia penal system.
Sadly, Iran is just one of 73 countries where homosexuality is actually criminalized. Not only that, but it’s one of eight nations, including Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Somalia, where it is classified as an offense punishable by death.
That was enough for the Trump administration to launch the initiative to put a stop to it.
“The United States continues to work to protect and defend human rights for all. Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News this week. “Working to advance longstanding U.S. policy around human rights is the kind of work our Ambassadors do all around the world every day.”
Last May, Secretary Mike Pompeo opened the conversation about the international crisis. He said:
“Around the world, far too many governments continue to arrest and abuse their citizens simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).”
He said it was time we started talking about what was happening and put a stop to it.
“Fear and bigotry are enshrined in laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct in more than 70 countries,” he continued. “In some, being LGBTI is punishable by death. We use public and private diplomacy to raise human rights concerns, provide emergency assistance to people at risk, and impose visa restrictions and economic sanctions against those who persecute them.”
The details of the strategy are still being finalized, but the goal is to focus on pressuring countries to change their laws.
“The truth for LGBT people is that we were born gay,” Grenell wrote in an editorial this month for German publication Bild. “People can disagree philosophically about homosexuality, but no person should ever be subject to criminal penalties because they are gay.”
But the initiative has come under attack by many LGBTQ groups and activists in America.
Jeremy Kadden is the Senior International Policy Advocate for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national LGBTQ civil rights organization in the country, told Fox News:
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence have turned a blind eye to a campaign of violence and murder targeting LGBTQ people in Chechnya that has stretched on for two years.”
That’s right. Kadden hates the wide-stretching, international campaign because Trump didn’t move on another civil rights issue earlier. Yeah, that makes lots of sense.
“They have turned away LGBTQ people fleeing violence and persecution and sent them back to countries that criminalize them, and have consistently worked to undermine the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people and our families here at home from day one. If this commitment is real, we have a lot of questions about their intentions and commitments, and are eager to see what proof and action will follow,” he said.
Activists are saying the campaign is simply a political play to disparage and shame Iran on the world stage, and that it has nothing to do with supporting human rights.
“This looks like just another attempt by the Trump administration to cherry-pick and cover-up what is a horrible record of targeting marginalized people, including the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, an anti-defamation watchdog advocating for LGBTQ rights.
Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker is now the President and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute. She agrees that the “motives behind the decriminalization effort are sketchy at best.”
“Our hope is that Ambassador Grenell – one of the few out LGBTQ people in the entire administration – will demand that this not be just a public relations stunt, but the first step in a return to the United States as a global leader on LGBTQ equality,” she said. “Ending the criminalization of gay people around the globe will not come via edict from the White House, it is a huge effort that requires the full commitment of his administration and an investment in local LGBTQ organizations. Yet this administration has cut funds for global LGBTQ initiatives.”
Then there’s James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project.
“Any talk from the Trump administration about improving life for LGBTQ people in other countries will ring hollow for the millions of LGBTQ people in America who have been under attack by this administration from day one,” he stressed. “If the Trump administration wants to reduce the very real violence and discrimination faced by LGBTQ people, it should start at home by ensuring LGBTQ people are protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”
Tarah Demant, Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program at Amnesty International was triggered as well:
“Amnesty stand with activists calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality.”
Sounds like Demant is all about the campaign. Nope – Demant immediately followed that up by saying they were concerned that key LGBT groups in the United States were not invited to the Grenell-led summit to kick of the campaign in Berlin this month.
Policy experts point to the unbelievable hypocrisy of those groups.
“The left – and many on the right – have expressed concern about the harsh penalties for homosexuality in other nations for an extremely long time,” noted Adam Weiss, CEO of AMW, a public relations firm. “President Trump is constantly hit with a barrage of baseless claims that he is harmful to the LGBT community — but this effort could potentially save many lives around the globe. Even when he is helping they insist that he is hurting. It’s madness.”
Dan Gainor is the Vice President of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center and says Trump is going to be attacked either way.
“The world called out then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he told Columbia University that his nation had no gays. More than ten years later, Iran’s abuse of its LGBT population continues and is still horrific. But it’s just one nation of many and Trump has targeted all such countries with his policy,” he said. “Only the press and critics claim Trump is a bigot, and then when his administration does something genuinely important to stop global slaughter and abuse, they criticize him for that as well.”
There is one activist group that’s weighing in positively. That’s 76crimes.com, which spotlights global abuses impacting LBGT communities worldwide.
“Almost any effort to bring about the repeal of more than 70 countries’ anti-gay laws is a welcome development,” said Colin Stewart, editor and publisher. “Even just the extra publicity is helpful because too few people realize how many countries routinely violate the human rights of their LGBTQ citizens.”