The Trump administration will launch an effort to decriminalize homosexuality in countries where it is still illegal, as part of a diplomatic push for LGBTQ rights — and an effort to isolate Iran, which persecutes homosexuals.
NBC News reported Tuesday that the effort is to be led by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, a staunch Trump supporter who is among the highest-ranking openly gay officials ever to serve in the U.S. government. Grenell is currently among the front-runnersto succeed Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin. The U.S. embassy is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to plan to push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality — mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.
Although the decriminalization strategy is still being hashed out, officials say it’s likely to include working with global organizations like the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as other countries whose laws already allow for gay rights. Other U.S. embassies and diplomatic posts throughout Europe, including the U.S. Mission to the E.U., are involved, as is the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Narrowly focused on criminalization, rather than broader LGBT issues like same-sex marriage, the campaign was conceived partly in response to the recent reported execution by hanging of a young gay man in Iran, the Trump administration’s top geopolitical foe.
There are 72 countries that still criminalize homosexuality, and eight that apply the death penalty, according to NBC. One is U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, according to a report by a gay rights organization cited by NBC News.
The Trump administration has been criticized by LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) activists in the U.S. for barring transgender volunteers from serving in the U.S. military, and rescinding a policy from the previous administration encouraging special accommodation for transgender students in public schools.
However, Trump has stayed out of debates over same-sex marriage and has promoted gay officials, such as Grenell, who share his broader agenda.
President Barack Obama ran in 2008 on a platform opposing same-sex marriage and yet was embraced by LGBTQ activists. He switched his position before the 2012 elections, and told African countries to drop laws discriminating against homosexuals in 2015, but did not press the issue more widely.
The Trump administration has won praise from religious groups for promoting their agenda abroad, including the “Mexico City policy,” which bars U.S. foreign aid for being used to fund or promote abortion.