The Trump administration’s highest profile gay person is leading an effort to decriminalize homosexuality in dozens of nations where it’s still illegal.
NBC News, citing administration officials, reported the bid led U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is aimed in part at denouncing Iran over its human rights record.
The U.S. Embassy in Berlin on Tuesday is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner.
The plan focuses mostly on countries in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.
“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” a U.S. official involved in organizing the event told NBC.
The effort, still in the early stages of development, likely will work with the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, among other U.S. agencies, also will participate.
The campaign is narrowly focused on criminalization rather than broader issues such as same-sex marriage, NBC said.
It was conceived partly in response to the recent report of an execution by hanging of a young gay man in Iran.
NBC pointed out that the Europeans have not supported the Trump administration’s abandonment of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions. Reframing Iran as a human rights issue could help the United States and Europe reach an agreement on policy toward the mullah-led regime.
“Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death,” Grenell said.
The strategy, however, could alienate allies in the Arab world with whom Trump has strengthened ties.
In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can be punishable by death. A 2017 report from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association found 72 nations that criminalize homosexuality.
NBC noted that as a candidate, Trump, though ambiguous about many gay-rights issues, was the first Republican nominee to mention LGBT rights in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, is supporting the diplomatic effort to fight violence and discrimination against LGBT people, NBC said, citing U.S. officials. Pompeo declared in his Senate confirmation hearing: “I deeply believe that LGBTQ persons have every right that every other person in the world would have.”
Grenell is under consideration to be Trump’s ambassador to the U.N. He once served as spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. when John Bolton held the post. Bolton is now Trump’s national security adviser.