There's some positive, LGBTQ+ focused news coming out of the White House, or so it seems. NBC News reported on Feb. 19 that the White House just added a huge human rights issue to their agenda. While on the surface the plan is focused on decriminalizing homosexuality in countries where it's still illegal, the Trump administration's campaign to decriminalize homosexuality globally focuses on Iran. On the outside, the Trump administration seems to be gifting us with some forward-thinking movement, but there's a lot to unpack.
The initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in places like the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, led by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell — the Trump administration's highest-ranking openly gay member — kicked off Tuesday with an event in Berlin, according to NBC News. The publication reports that LGBTQ+ activists from across Europe were flown in to meet at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to plan the campaign over dinner. A source involved in the event told NBC News, "It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct." Elite Daily reached out to the White House and the Department of State for further details on the campaign, but did not immediately hear back.
While the full strategy is still being mapped out, NBC News reports that the campaign will likely include working with organizations like the United Nations (U.N.), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with other countries who support gay rights. Other partners might also include the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
While 40 percent of U.N. member nations still criminalize homosexuality, per Business Insider, NBC reports that the administration's new bid was prompted by reports of the recent hanging of a young gay man in Iran. The Iranian regime hanged the unidentified 31-year-old man in January after he was found guilty of violating Iran's anti-gay laws, according to the Jerusalem Post. In a February article in Bild, a leading German newspaper, Grenell responded to the execution and said Iran has "put a gay man to death" before and "it won't be the last time." Grenell wrote,
This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time. Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.
It appears to be the latest step in ongoing tension between the Trump administration and Iran, which has emerged as a diplomatic rival for the administration in recent months. In May 2018, Trump broke with U.S. allies in Europe to pull out of the Obama-era Iran deal, which lifted sanctions in exchange for the country's agreement not to attempt nuclear energy or weapons. And in November 2018, the president used, of all things, a meme-ified version of a Game of Thrones poster to herald new sanctions on Iran. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment at the time. In turn, Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, called Trump an "idiot" in a public speech in February, per The Guardian. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment.
Grenell, who was tapped by Trump to serve as ambassador to Germany in May 2018, has reportedly been trying to get European nations on board to help impose sanctions on Iran. However, he's reportedly been having some trouble thanks to the administration's promise to also impose sanctions on European countries who have maintained the previous deal with Iran and keep doing business with the nation.
The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment regarding the focus on Iran in the new campaign.
The Trump administration doesn't necessarily have the best history in supporting the LGBTQ+ community domestically, either. According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)'s running count, as of Feb. 20, the administration has made 94 policy changes that negatively impact the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the things on that list include Trump's attempted ban of transgender people from the military, which the Supreme Court ruled in January was allowed to go into effect; Trump firing all the members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS — a council tasked with advising the White House on how to respond to and combat the AIDS crisis — back in 2017; and on Feb. 8 of this year President Trump suggesting that the administration would move to fund and support faith-based adoption agencies, which may deny LGBTQ+ couples adoption rights. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on the administration's actions regarding LGBTQ+ rights and the mentioned policies, but did not immediately hear back.
There's definitely some layers to the administration's plans. But whatever's behind it, more rights for the LGBTQ+ community is a positive change. It's something.