The Trump administration is reportedly launching a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. According to NBC News, Iran is one of the primary targets of the effort, drawing attention to President Donald Trump’s history of conflating support for the LGBTQ community with Islamophobic messaging.
The catalyst for the decision appears to have been Iran’s hanging of a gay man in January. Iran has long been one of Trump’s biggest international foes, and the president has repeatedly threatened the nation against pushing back on the administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions that were rolled back under the Iran nuclear deal.
Leading the new campaign is Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany. Grenell, an openly gay man and ultra-conservative, lashed out after the hanging, calling it “a wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights.”
Grenell himself has frequently pushed the concept of homonationalism in his social media posts. The term “homonationalism,” HuffPost notes, was coined by Rutgers University professor Jasbir K. Puar in 2007 and is considered “the intersection of gay identity and nationalist ideology” — including the reinforcement of Islamophobia.
On Twitter, the ambassador has posted dozens of tweets decrying “radical Islam,” a term often used to demonize all of Islam as being responsible for terrorism. He has also implied that Islam categorically rejects homosexuality, even though a growing majority of U.S. Muslims believe society should accept homosexuality. (Far fewer white evangelical Christians agree with that statement, however Grenell has claimed LGBTQ activists are “intolerant” towards Christians for opposing exemptions that would allow Christians to discriminate against LGBTQ people.)
Many of Grenell’s tweets reference the Pulse nightclub shooting that took place in Orlando in 2016. Trump’s supposedly pro-LGBTQ comments following that tragedy fell into the same vein of homonationalism: he argued that he was better for the LGBTQ community because he was more Islamophobic than Hillary Clinton and didn’t take any other pro-LGBTQ positions.
Since taking office, Trump’s administration has also worked to dismantle LGBTQ equality more broadly, throwing his current bid to decriminalize homosexuality at a global scale into question.
This past fall, for instance, the administration told United Nations diplomats that their same-sex partners would only be able to remain in the United States if couples were legally married in their country of origin. Only 12 percent of diplomats’ home countries allow same-sex marriage, and many of them have more restrictive policies, including those similar to the ones Trump wants to take on.
In 2017, the administration also voted against a U.N. resolution condemning the use of the death penalty to punish homosexuality. Outgoing State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert at the time defended that decision, claiming the administration had voted against the resolution because it took a broader position against the death penalty. She added that the United States “unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality.”
Other countries that voted against the resolution included Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all of which have laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Some 70 countries across the globe still criminalize homosexuality. While that number has generally been on the decline, some countries are still pushing to expand it. Just last week, Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission said that a ban on LGBTQ people would be lawful simply because it would be consistent with religious traditions in the nation.