Last week’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was a religious right jamboree disguised as a State Department-sponsored event.
So it’s not surprising that the meeting, which attracted representatives from more than 40 nations, was a handy opportunity for President Trump’s officials to let the world know that not only are they encouraging other countries to oppress their LGBTQ citizens, but that they will be rewarded for doing so.
In his address to the gathering, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, complained about the Obama administration’s dedication to LGBTQ rights overseas.
““Our US taxpayer dollars are used to discourage Christian values in other democratic countries. It was stunning to me that my government under a previous administration would go to folks in sub-Saharan Africa and say, ‘We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money,’” Mulvaney told the audience.
“‘We know you have a law against gay marriage, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.’”
In fact, Mulvaney went one step further, asserting that protecting LGBTQ people was de facto oppression of Christians (or at least as he defines them).
“That’s a different type of religious persecution,” Mulvaney said. “That is a different type of religious persecution that I never expected to see. I never expected to see that as an American Christian.”
Mulvaney’s comments highlights the way that the religious right, of which Mulvaney is a full-throated supporter, insists that LGBTQ rights are a violation of religious freedom. In essence, human rights are a zero sum game, and Mulvaney wants to make sure that the LGBTQ community is on the receiving end of the zero.
As Mulvaney made clear, African nations needn’t worry about LGBTQ rights issues under the Trump administration. President Obama had personally pressured African nations to protect their LGBTQ citizens, using money as a stick. The financial penalties are now gone, so countries can do as they wish.
Countries with a history of LGBTQ oppression were quick to jump on the change in policy. Media in Kenya declared that the Trump administration “agress with President Kenyatta’s view on gay rights.” Kenyatta has declared that LGBTQ rights are “of no importance in Kenya.”
The administration’s green light to attacks on LGBTQ rights is entirely in keeping with its past actions. After all, President Trump’s affinity for Russian president Vladimir Putin has been a green light for continue violence against LGBTQ people in that country and neighboring Chechnya.
The difference between Russian and African nations is that using financial aid as a cudgel is much more effective for the latter. Now that it’s gone, you can expect the violence against LGBTQ people to increase.
They may try to flee the country as a result of the policy change, but because of another policy change, they’re likely out of luck: the Trump administration is also no longer interested in granting LGBTQ people political asylum in the U.S. even if they’re lives are in danger.