Commentary

Joe Biden needs to address global LGBTQ rights. Here’s where he can start.

President Joe Biden takes no malarkey
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It is fair to say that President Joe Biden has had a pretty full plate since he took over the White House just over 50 days ago. Between the pandemic, economic recession, racial strife, defensive strikes in Syria and much more, the Commander in Chief has had his fair share of challenges to deal with.

Despite that, however, he has still made time to lay out his foreign policy priorities when it comes to our community, declaring both in a speech at the State Department as well as in an official presidential memorandum last month that “United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”

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There are many areas around the world where our rights, and in many cases our lives, are under threat. Below are a few that the president should focus on.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis have of course gotten a lot of attention in recent months and years due to the controversy surrounding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  It was also reported in 2019 that five Saudi men were executed for “homosexual acts” under sharia law.

The Biden administration has announced new sanctions against the Saudi government yet no direct punishment against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who was the mastermind of the Khashoggi assassination and is responsible for making the country even more draconian than it was before.

They need to go even further and truly make bin Salman pay for his actions.

Brunei

Unlike in a lot of the Muslim-majority countries that have had sharia law on the books for hundreds if not thousands of years, the Sultan of Brunei only just implemented sharia law as a tool to galvanize the very culturally conservative people of his country back in 2014. This sparked a massive global outcry and boycott of the Dorchester Hotel Collection which he owns, which caused him to put a moratorium on any executions of gay or trans people.

There is every possibility though that he could decide to commence these executions immediately and at any given moment, which is why we need Biden to sanction Brunei and prevent them from joining any future trade agreements unless they change their ways (Brunei would have been included in the Trans Pacific Partnership which America negotiated during the Obama administration).

Iran

Iran has a long dark history when it comes to the oppression and execution of LGBTQ people.

Like Brunei and Saudi Aria, they have used sharia law as justification for the execution of gays; there were the infamous harrowing photos of two men who were hanged for “homosexual sex” in 2005. In 2012 the country’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that homosexuality was “ugly,” compared it to stealing and said that gay people did not exist in Iran.

The Biden administration has said that they are open to resuming talks which perhaps could lead to the U.S. re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, but they are taking a strong stance and refusing to lift sanctions first because Iran shows some willingness to sacrifice. The administration should make progress on LGBTQ rights part of the negotiation.

Russia/Chechnya

Russia has of course taken center stage in the last few years due to former President Donald Trump’s refusal to retaliate for their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

President Biden has taken a vastly different approach, directly confronting and condemning Vladimir Putin for his acts of aggression against America and for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexi Navalny. He also announced new sanctions, some against senior members of the Russian government.

Since 2013, the Russian government’s discrimination and oppression towards its LGBTQ citizens has been a major controversy, and it is absolutely crucial that, in addition to Russia, the Biden administration take direct action against the Chechnyan government which, as bravely exposed in the documentary Welcome to Chechnya, has been kidnapping, imprisoning, and murdering gays and lesbians.