The final presidential debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas was another disaster for Donald Trump, in which the Republican candidate refused to confirm whether he'll accept the results of the election should he lose in three weeks, which appears almost certain.
To his credit, Trump did manage to bring up an issue very rarely discussed in American politics: the violence perpetrated against LGBT people in the Middle East.
During a discussion about the Clinton Foundation, the charity run by Clinton and her ex-president husband, Trump said the following:
"It's a criminal enterprise. Saudi Arabia giving $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries. You talk about women and women's rights? So these are people that push gays off business — off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. And yet you take their money.
"So I'd like to ask you right now, why don't you give back the money that you've taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly? Why don't you give back the money? I think it would be a great gesture."
Of course, Trump stretched the truth and missed all nuance in his description of the Clinton Foundation and its actions. First off, the foundation did take money from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but it was before Clinton became secretary of State in 2009. Also, while those nations mentioned by Trump do have policies under which gay sex and sex outside of marriage is punishable by death, it's not clear that either have executed gay people or those convicted of sodomy.
There are gay and bi people being murdered in the Middle East — specifically thrown off buildings in Iraq and Syria — but it's the terrorist group ISIS perpetrating the killings. Whether the governments of Saudi Arabia or Qatar are somehow involved in funding or supporting ISIS is not certain, so it's a stretch to use the foundation's eight-year-old donations to connect Hillary Clinton with the murders of gay people. It should also be pointed out that Trump himself has profited from Saudi money.
Regardless, gay people are being killed. While Trump uses their deaths for political gain, Clinton, as president, needs to acknowledge these human rights abuses are happening and loudly condemn them. Obviously, ISIS is not going to heed Clinton's famous declaration that "gay rights are human rights," but she can at least pressure legitimate Middle Eastern governments that they need to improve their treatment of LGBT people.
Clinton can take a cue from gay New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who sent a letter in April along with 33 other members of Congress to the Saudi ambassador calling on the country to end sting operations against gay and bi men. One man caught in the sting reportedly faced 450 lashes, while approximately 35 people were jailed for wearing women’s clothes during a party.
With Clinton (likely) in the Oval Office, we can expect LGBT equality to progress in the United States, but we cannot forget about our brothers and sisters hurting and dying outside our borders. We need to hold Clinton's feet to the fire on that issue, and if there's one thing we can thank Trump for, it's that he reminded us of that fact.
NEAL BROVERMAN is the executive editor of The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman.