Rights advocates call Trump's pledge to decriminalize gay sex 'a lie'

by Rachel Savage | @rachelmsavage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 25 September 2019 21:10 GMT

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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LGBT+ advocates said Trump's administration has reversed some hard-fought rights

By Rachel Savage

NEW YORK, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. President Donald Trump pledged this week to help end the criminalization of homosexuality globally, but LGBT+ rights advocates took a dim view of his speech at the United Nations, accusing him of rolling back protections at home.

Trump, in his address to world leaders on Tuesday, said: "We stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people who live in countries that punish, jail or execute individuals based upon sexual orientation."

Gay sex is illegal in 69 countries, almost half of them in Africa, where homosexuality remains largely taboo and persecution is rife.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iran and parts of Nigeria impose the death penalty for gay sex, while Botswana decriminalized same-sex relations in June.

Rights advocates in the United States said Trump's administration has done little to support LGBT+ people and has in several cases reversed some hard-fought rights.

Trump's administration has banned transgender people from the U.S. military, cut funding for HIV and AIDS research and supported the right of medical providers and adoption agencies to deny services to LGBT+ people.

"Donald Trump's words at the U.N. do not just ring hollow - they are an unadulterated lie. His administration has done nothing to protect LGBTQ people at home or abroad," said Zeke Stokes of the U.S. gay rights group GLAAD in an email.

Trump has not challenged the views of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a self-proclaimed "proud homophobe," nor responded to allegations that LGBT+ people in Chechnya are detained and tortured, he said.

"He was silent," Stokes said.

Trump said in a tweet marking LGBT+ Pride Month in June that his administration had launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invited other nations to join.

But rights advocates note his administration has argued in three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that a law barring companies from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex does not cover LGBT+ people.

Vice President Mike Pence is a social and evangelical conservative who in 2015, as governor of Indiana, signed into law a religious freedom bill that would have allowed businesses to deny services to LGBT+ people. The law was later revised.

"It is abundantly clear the Trump and Pence do not care about LGBTQ people," Charlotte Clymer, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT+ group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She pointed to the murders of at least 18 trans people this year in the United States, saying: "That continues to go unaddressed by the Trump administration."

The president still gets support from the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBT+ group that endorsed his reelection campaign in August.

"President Trump's leadership on this issue is heartening during a time when our LGBTQ brothers and sisters abroad still face life-threatening discrimination," the group's chairman Robert Kabel said in an email.

In its endorsement, the Log Cabin Republicans applauded Trump for "removing gay rights as a wedge issue from the old Republican playbook."

"Since taking office, President Trump has followed through on many of his commitments to the United States, including taking bold actions that benefit the LGBTQ community," the group said.

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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