President Donald Trump took time during his address at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to mention the United States’ support of a global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in countries where LGBTQ people are routinely persecuted, jailed, or even executed.
Trump briefly addressed the initiative, saying the U.S. was working with other countries to decriminalize homosexuality and that it stands “in solidarity” with those targeted because of their sexual orientation.
Currently, 68 countries have laws on the books punishing homosexuality or same-sex relations — often cloaked in language about “obscenity” or “crimes against nature.”
The rest of the president’s speech largely hewed to “red meat” topics for Republican base voters: decrying “globalists” and those who favor less strict immigration policies, warning about the dangers of socialism, denouncing the Iranian regime as well as the Maduro regime in Venezuela, and reiterating the United States’ dedication to “religious freedom” abroad.
Following Trump’s speech, the Log Cabin Republicans — an LGBTQ group that controversially endorsed his re-election bid — praised the president’s brief mention of the campaign.
“President Trump’s leadership on this issue is heartening during a time when our LGBTQ brothers and sisters abroad still face life-threatening discrimination,” Log Cabin Board Chairman Robert Kabel said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with the Administration to promote policies that will project America’s leadership on this issue.”
“President Trump is fulfilling on his initiative to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe,” Charles Moran, the managing director and spokesman for Log Cabin Republicans, added. “We are thankful that he will use this moment while addressing the world to call for the end of senseless persecution of LGBTQ individuals. President Trump is keeping his promises to the the LGBTQ community, and for standing up for American values.”
But others said Trump’s mention of the initiative was mere pandering, noting that his condemnation of globalists and emphasis on the personal sovereignty of nations runs counter to the entire point of the decriminalization campaign, which Richard Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, has been tasked with leading.
“Throwing in a reference to opposing the criminalization of same-sex relations while at the same time stating that the national supersedes the international, and that tradition and culture are sacred, is one more example of President Trump’s hypocrisy,” Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight Action International, said in a statement.
“LGBTIQ people across the world, including in the US, do not feel safe or protected within their borders and are often attacked under the guise of tradition,” Stern added. “In all too many places, international standards have been the only avenue for LGBTIQ people to have our rights recognized, to seek remedy for crimes committed against us, and for pushing nations to accept that human rights belong to all, including, explicitly, LGBTIQ people.”
Zeke Stokes, chief programs officer for LGBTQ media organization GLAAD, criticized the president’s mention as empty, citing findings from GLAAD’s “Trump Accountability Project” that keeps track of policy or rhetorical attacks against the LGBTQ community.
“Actions speak louder than words, @realDonaldTrump and @RichardGrenell,” Stokes tweeted. “Here’s the real record: 125 in policy and rhetoric since he took office.”
GLAAD has previously criticized Trump for being silent on other matters involving the LGBTQ community abroad, including his failure to personally address or condemn anti-LGBTQ attacks in the Russian province of Chechnya, and his refusal to condemn ally and ideological compatriot Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions.