The Trump administration has taken on another momentous crusade sure to rock the world, and more specifically the European Union (E.U.), with a call to decriminalize homosexuality in nations where being gay is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, and even death. The planning committee to address this human rights abuse was hosted in Berlin by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Feb. 19, and the U.S. Embassy transported LGBT activists from across Europe to attend the strategic dinner.
The recent hanging of a gay man in Iran was partially the inspiration for going global in the effort to change laws in any country that criminalizes being gay. Spearheading the campaign, Grenell, who is openly gay, observed that the 31-year-old Iranian was not the first to be sentenced to death, but the tragic event is a “wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights.” In a recent article in the German newspaper Bild, he said:
“In Iran, where children as young as nine can be sentenced to death, gay teenagers are publically hanged in order to terrify and intimidate others from coming out. Iran’s horrific actions are on par with the brutality and savagery regularly demonstrated by ISIS.”
E.U. in a Bind
The E.U. has adamantly refused to support Trump’s hard line on Iran, so this attempt to end discrimination against gays puts them in a very uncomfortable situation. Recently, the relationship between the E.U. and Iran hit a rough patch when the latter refused to halt its ballistic missile testing. And now Europe is faced with a tough decision: Join the global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality and risk further damaging relations with Iran, or refuse and face serious criticism from their own citizens, who find such cruel treatment of gays an affront to western values.
…slaughtering people for being gay is definitely discriminatory.
Some may claim this is a ploy by the Trump administration – using the plight of gays to advance its agenda. Anti-Trumpers likely will point out the president’s obvious (insert sarcasm) prejudice against the LGBT community by pointing to such policies as the ban on transgenders joining the military. But barring certain transgenders from serving is no more discriminatory than shutting out those with flat feet, high blood pressure, or any other disqualifying medical condition. In contrast, flogging, maiming, and slaughtering people for being gay is definitely discriminatory. Trump can easily cite the horrific murder of the Iranian gay man as a tragic example of true discrimination.
Though some might see this as a clever trap by Trump, the president risks damaging the fragile ties he has made with other diplomats, presidents, and rulers, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Homosexuality is criminalized in 72 nations, of which eight issue a death sentence for the offense. This call to end a senseless human rights abuse seriously impacts nations where the United States has made great efforts to create a delicate peace, such as the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Although these nations do not necessarily call for punishment by death, they do have laws that “target” gay people. On the other hand, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen all levy the death penalty.
The global anti-discrimination campaign may have the added benefit of furthering Trump’s attempts to secure the E.U.’s cooperation in isolating Iran. But make no mistake, NeverTrumpers: The president risks fracturing fragile relations with other nations in his efforts to end the brutal treatment and slaughter of those who desire same-sex relationships.