Trump admin. launches campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide

Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with 'LGBTs for TRUMP' written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley, Colorado, October 2016.
Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with "LGBTs for TRUMP" written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley, Colorado, October 2016. | Reuters/Carlo Allegri

The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide, specifically in 71 countries were a person can be executed for being gay.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who’s an openly gay official in the Trump administration and an outspoken critic of regimes that criminalize homosexuality, launched the campaign Tuesday in Berlin where he met with 11 European LGBT activists for a strategy meeting.

“People understand, religious people, individuals who may not always be in the LGBT fight, they understand that criminalizing homosexuality is absolutely wrong,” Grenell said Wednesday in an interview with NBC News which reported that the campaign, in part, is a response to human rights abuses in Iran, Trump’s “geopolitical foe.”

“It is unbelievable to think that in today’s world, a 32-year-old man could be hanged in Iran simply for being gay,” he added.

“This is not a new policy, it’s a new push,” Grenell said, noting that all countries will be held accountable, even U.S. allies or those that have been cooperative with the U.S. government, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan. Multiple administrations, he said, have had to address difficult issues with U.S. allies. “We can have these conversations of human rights with our allies that clearly make homosexuality a crime and are not great on women’s rights as well.”

President Donald Trump appeared unaware of the announcement when asked about it on Tuesday.

“I don’t know which report you’re talking about,” Trump said. “We have many reports.”

When Grenell was asked if he was worried about pushback from evangelical Christians or social conservatives, he replied, “No, not at all!” And both political parties, he said, are supportive of the push to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.

“Seventy-one countries criminalize homosexuality and eight will put you to death for being gay. The Trump administration is launching a new push with our European allies to end this human rights outrage,” he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, which noted it was their report detailing the Iranian regime’s public hanging of a gay man that led the administration to launch the global campaign.

“Muslim-majority countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia such as Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the UAE impose capital punishment on same-sex relations,” The Jerusalem Post added.

Grenell, whose name has been floated as a potential successor to Nikki Haley as ambassador to the U.N., has called out several countries, not just Iran, for their human rights abuses against homosexuals. Most recently, he shared on Twitter the story of a 22-year-old Algerian medical student who was murdered on his college campus for being gay. The words “he is gay” was written in blood on a wall near where his body was found.

In an op-ed published in Bild, Europe’s largest newspaper on Feb. 1, Grenell wrote about Iran’s public execution of a gay man, saying: “This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time. Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.”

He added that “India, Trinidad and Tobago, Angola, and Belize have recently decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct. But there’s still much more work to be done.”

“Reasonable people can help by speaking out when young gay men are publicly hanged in Iran or shot in Chechnya. And government officials must work harder to demand that U.N. members decriminalize homosexuality,” he said.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino also noted that the push to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide is not a new policy. "This really is not a big policy departure. This is long-standing and it's bipartisan," Palladino said. “I would say that this is a good opportunity to listen and to discuss ideas about how the United States can advance decriminalization of homosexuality around the world, and that's been our policy."

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