During the previous administration, the U.S. took an increasingly strong leadership role in preventing human rights abuses against LGBTQ people around the globe. From declaring LGBTQ rights to be human rights to appointing a special envoy for LGBTI human rights and writing a government-wide memorandum that set out a clear strategy for advancing LGBTQ human rights, the U.S. positioned itself as a global leader for LGBTQ equality.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, however, things have changed dramatically.
Here are six signs that the Trump-Pence administration has pulled the U.S. away from its position as a leader on advancing human rights for LGBTQ people around the globe.
1. Commission on Unalienable Rights:
On July 8, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of an Orwellian commission on “unalienable rights” in a dangerous attempt to repudiate the longstanding international consensus around human rights. The commission was the brainchild of anti-LGBTQ crusader Robert George and will be chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, a longstanding opponent of marriage equality and trans rights.
2. No Pride guidance for U.S. embassies:
For the first time in many years, the State Department failed to send a cable to U.S. embassies around the world encouraging them to engage in 2019 LGBTQ Pride activities in their countries. Instead, State Department leaders turned down requests from embassies to fly the Pride flag as a sign of solidarity with local LGBTQ people.
3. Mistreating LGBTQ refugees at the border:
Like so many others at our borders, LGBTQ people fleeing violence in their home countries have been turned away or been made to wait in Mexico or in U.S. detention facilities. Horrifically, children and adults are dying as a result of the conditions created by the Trump-Pence administration, including at least two transgender asylum seekers, Roxana Hernández and Johana Medina.
4. No Special Envoy for Human Rights of LGBTI people:
Despite repeated assurances to Congress, the Trump-Pence administration has failed to appoint a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI people, a position that the last administration used effectively to engage governments, advocates and the private sector in efforts to support and protect the human rights of LGBTI people.
5. Silence on human rights violations abroad:
From Chechnya and Brunei to Egypt and Central America, both the White House and Pompeo’s silences have been deafening when it comes to strongly condemning human rights violations targeting the LGBTQ community -- despite repeated calls from groups including HRC to speak out.
6. No leadership on the international stage:
Rather than take on a leadership role to improve human rights globally, the U.S. pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2018, leaving behind a leadership vacuum. While the UNHRC votes on whether to renew the position of Independent Expert on the Human Rights of LGBTI people around the globe, the U.S. is nowhere to be found in the discussion.
The Trump-Pence track record on LGBTQ human rights continues to be nothing short of appalling. It is time for the U.S. to speak out once again as a human rights leader for LGBTQ and all vulnerable people.
While Congress has worked to advance legislation to fill the void this administration has created, it is long past time for the Trump-Pence administration to reverse course. Lives hang in the balance.