Trump officials call on 69 countries to decriminalize homosexuality

U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell (C) attends a reception for the internaitonal diplomatic corps hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Schloss Meseberg palace on July 6, 2018, near Gransee, Germany. .
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell (C) attends a reception for the internaitonal diplomatic corps hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Schloss Meseberg palace on July 6, 2018, near Gransee, Germany. . | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The Trump administration is calling on 69 countries that criminalize homosexuality to expand protections for citizens who identify as LGBT, a call that is backed by at least one conservative evangelical leader.

Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, and State Department Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Robert Destro, participated in a special meeting Wednesday sponsored by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

The three joined other diplomats in criticizing U.N. member states that criminalize homosexuality and same-sex relationships as LGBT individuals across the globe are at risk of being imprisoned or sentenced to death. 

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In a tweet Wednesday, Craft stressed that “no person should be harmed, tortured or killed because of their sexual orientation.”

“[Y]et at least 69 countries criminalize homosexuality,” she wrote. “Our event today at the [United Nations] showed our commitment to defending human dignity & partnering with #LGBTQ groups to decriminalize homosexuality.”

The meeting comes as the Trump administration vocalized its intent earlier this year to launch a campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality. 

“Individual men and women around the world have faced — and continue to face — punishment and even death, specifically because of their sexual orientation,” Craft was quoted as saying by Fox News. “This is a wrong we should seek to right, and it is a wrong I am personally committed to helping right.”

Grenell read aloud a list of nations that either outlaw homosexuality or persecute LGBT individuals in some form. According to Fox News, such countries include Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, Kenya, Senegal, Cameroon, Antigua, Barbuda, Syria and Yemen, among dozens of others.

The meeting was attended by Johnnie Moore, an evangelical public relations executive who has often informally engaged with the Trump administration. He also serves as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In a tweet, Moore mentioned that he was there on behalf of USCIRF and as an evangelical to “call for the global repeal of all laws which imprison, torture & execute homosexuals.”

“We are building a broad alliance around an area of profound agreement rather than on the contentious edges on the broader discussions,” Moore told The Christian Post. “Everyone can agree that no one in the world should be imprisoned, tortured or executed for homosexuality. Full stop. The evangelical community and the religious freedom community are in total agreement on this point and we are proud to work together with the LGBT community to eradicate these unjust laws.”

“Everyone can be so worried about heresy or bigotry that people forget about the simple importance and power of friendship," he continued. "We can work on this issue as friends.”

According to notes shared at the meeting, six of the 12 countries where the death penalty can be handed down for LGBT behavior are listed by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report as “Tier 1” or “Tier 2” countries of particular concern for religious freedom violations.

Additionally, four of the countries that have the death penalty for blasphemy convictions also carry the death penalty for LGBT behavior. Meanwhile, 11 countries that have the death penalty for apostasy also have the death penalty for LGBT behavior. 

Data from the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation concludes that more religious freedom in societies fosters a positive environment for LGBT people. 

The foundation found that among the 137 countries that have both religious freedom and LGBT data available, the average level of support for LGBT rights is 38 percent higher in countries with higher levels of religious freedom than in countries with lower levels of religious freedom. 

Grenell said there should be different plans of action for each country that still outlaws homosexuality. He stressed, however, that there would be “no easy answers.”

“I’ve been in this room thousands and thousands of times, it feels good,” he was quoted as saying.  “But, this is the first stand-alone meeting on the decriminalization of homosexuality and the moment is not lost on me.”

In February, a State Department spokesperson clarified that the push to decriminalize homosexuality globally is not a really new U.S. policy. 

“This really is not a big policy departure. This is long-standing and it's bipartisan," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said at the time. “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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