Donald Trump called out for “sham” campaign to help gays in other countries

Donald Trump in front of a burning rainbow flag that's on fire
Photo: Graham Gremore

The Trump administration has repeatedly rolled back LGBTQ protections, fought court cases against LGBTQ equality, and appointed anti-LGBTQ Christian conservative activists to important administration positions.

Still, Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has tried some outreach to LGBTQ voters, and one of the administration’s few moves that gets repeatedly brought up is Trump’s campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. Now LGBTQ human rights advocates are speaking out about how little that campaign has done, much less accomplished.

Related: Conservatives fear Trump’s gay cabinet member will work to ‘impose’ homosexuality

In early 2019, out U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell announced a U.S.-led campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. The campaign was a central feature in a video last week in which Grenell claimed Trump was “the most pro-gay president in American history.”

“The decriminalization campaign is smoke and mirrors,” Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, told The Daily Beast. “The U.S. opposed criminalization long before President Trump took office – and saying people shouldn’t be imprisoned for being LGBT is the bare minimum of what the U.S. should be doing, not a bold endeavor.”

Other LGBTQ advocates noted that the campaign has really not done much of anything besides a couple meetings.

It was “nothing more than a series of self-promoting Twitter photos,” said Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality.

“There has never been any Trump administration decriminalization plan – no new funding to support the local LGBTQ+ activists working in those countries on decriminalization. They are the true heroes on the ground who deserve America’s support.”

“Ending the criminalization of LGBTQ people is an urgent and a monumental task, but former Ambassador Grenell and the Trump administration have failed to announce actual resources or plans to accomplish,” said GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, 72 countries and jurisdictions criminalize homosexuality. Since Grenell’s campaign started, two countries – Botswana and Gabon – have decriminalized homosexuality.

Gabon also criminalized homosexuality in the summer of 2019, after Grenell’s campaign started, and then decriminalized it a year later.

Botswana’s decriminalization in June 2019 was the result of a high court decision from a legal battle that started several years before.

Trump said in 2019 that he didn’t know about the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality, and his administration has arguably hindered efforts to promote LGBTQ equality worldwide.

For example, the Trump administration worked to rewrite international human rights law to emphasize “religious freedom” over LGBTQ equality, stacked a human rights committee with anti-LGBTQ activists, made it more difficult for transgender refugees to get asylum in the U.S., sent away LGBTQ people seeking asylum in the U.S. to countries with fewer protections for them, and even banned U.S. embassies from flying the rainbow flag.

Grenell will speak tonight at the Republican National Convention.

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