In a surprise move last week, the Corrupt Trump Administration announced a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.
The announcement was particularly curious, given Trump's cozy relationship with some especially bad actors on LGBTQ rights around the world (the U.S. voted with them last year against a U.N. resolution against capital punishment for consensual same-sex activity), and with the antigay right in this country.
True, he did promise at the 2016 Republican National Convention to "do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens" — he even included the Q in the acronym. But he also included the T, yet has singled out transgender Americans for sustained hostility and discrimination.
Trump's promise then was a swipe at Islam, and, according to former Trump flack Sean Spicer, a bone thrown to persuade one convention delegate to withdraw his name from a "Never Trump" petition:
The final name that needed to be scrubbed from the petition, Spicer writes [in The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and The President], was that of Washington, D.C., delegate Robert Sinners. The book describes an alleged deal between Sinners, who Spicer says told the Manafort team “he wanted Donald Trump to support gay rights,” and senior Trump communications advisor Jason Miller.The new campaign appears to be the pet project of Richard Grenell, Trump's Ambassador to Germany (who is also in the running to be named Ambassador to the United Nations). Grenell is a disciple of National Security Adviser John Bolton; his name showed up in my blog in 2012 when Mitt Romney dropped him as a foreign policy adviser as a sop to religious right-wingers alarmed that Grenell is openly gay.
“Jason assured Sinners that Trump would be the most ‘inclusive’ candidate the Republican Party ever had,” Spicer writes....
Sinners then reportedly signed “a form that officially removed his name from the petition,” and the deal was done.
Grenell cites the recent execution in Iran of a man accused of being gay as the impetus for the campaign:
Grenell called the hanging “a wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights,” in Bild, a leading German newspaper, this month.As much as it is heartening to see our government standing up for LGBTQ rights in Iran, it is hard to imagine the Corrupt Trump Administration doing the same for LGBTQ rights in Saudi Arabia, where LGBTQ relationships are also "criminalized and punishable by flogging and death." After all, Trump could barely scrape up any trace of disappoval of the Saudis' murder of openly heterosexual journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“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,” Grenell wrote. “Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.”
Nor have we heard much from him about antigay repression in Russia, especially the disappearance, torture and murder of hundreds of LGBTQ Chechens.
As with virtually everything else about life in North Korea, we know precious little about the plight of its LGBTQ citizens; a gay defector last year painted a picture of oppression and forced denial. Homosexuality isn't technically illegal there; but as in any totalitarian country, the government can label anything "contrary to a socialist lifestyle," "obscene," or "decadent" as an excuse to prosecute whomever it wants.
It's a safe bet that safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ Koreans did not come up in conversations between Kim and Trump in Vietnam this week. Rather, the Corrupt Trump Administration's sole concern in LGBTQ rights anywhere is their usefulness as a wedge between western European liberalism and the Iranian theocracy.
Trump has not been able to persuade other signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to join him in abrogating the agreement, in which Iran promised to limit its nuclear activities and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor their compliance, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Without European cooperation, Trump has no leverage to force some presumably more punitive deal on Iran.
So is he just being clever, calculating that liberal western politicians would rather go back to Square One on Iran's nuclear ambitions (even as nuclear powers India and Pakistan have begun shooting at each other) than to appear antigay? Maybe.
Or maybe not.
News reports this week suggest that, contrary to my cartoon, Vice President Mike Pence is more aware of the administration's brand new policy than President Trump himself is.
A reporter asked Trump about the global initiative, which is being spearheaded by U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest ranking openly gay person in the Trump administration.
At first, Trump seemed not to understand the question, asking the reporter to repeat it.
“Say it?” Trump said.
When the reporter referenced the push to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe, Trump professed unawareness and said something about reports in his administration.
“I don’t know which report you’re talking about,” Trump said. “We have many reports.”