President Trump finds time to build on supposed global threats involving immigration on our southern border, insisting the United States is “FULL!” Yet he, a prolific Tweeter if nothing else, hasn’t found time to make even one comment or write even one pithy message about Brunei in the one week since the nation began implementing its horrific anti-LGBTQ law.
Death by stoning, to be precise.
In light of this horrific new era for LGBTQ people in Brunei, this would be the perfect and necessary time for the Trump administration to make good on its word by condemning the nation’s heinous law. Such a statement by President Trump would follow news more than 50 days ago in what was described as an effort to end the criminalization of being LGBTQ in countries across the globe.
Common sense would forecast a response after LGBTQ advocates and allies have harshly condemned and announced boycotts about the law.
It’s not unreasonable, or even slightly odd, for those of us who fight for LGBTQ acceptance to request that the president follow up on this, a supposed priority, with action. A sitting president has unique capital that allows for driving home a point in a way that no other administration official fully can. When an administration reveals an agenda, it’s natural to seek both comment and action when a situation directly related to that agenda drives the international news cycle.
But these are not normal times. In this Trump era, Americans have a president who’s willing to weigh in on anything and everything, yet refuses to tackle a key development related to one of his administration’s supposed fights.
Trump could join some British elected leaders by calling on the United States’ most sacred ally, the United Kingdom, to “chuck” Brunei out of the Commonwealth. President Trump could even ask the European Union to ask all of its members to disavow this heinous law too.
President Trump’s silence on Brunei puts the United States at risk for once again falling behind as global leaders on human rights issues.
Already, there is a major echo chamber forming back home in Hollywood. Everyone from George Clooney to Ellen DeGeneres have condemned Brunei’s antigay stoning law. In addition to speaking out, these celebrities have initiated boycotts targeting the hotel company owned by the Sultan of Brunei himself.
One might think that the combination of fame and real estate alone would spark the president to weigh in, but nothing. Not one word.
As a State Department spokesman accurately stated when the campaign first made news, the current push to decriminalize being LGBTQ is really nothing new to this administration. It is a continuation of a policy enacted by the Obama administration, making this issue the perfect opportunity for the nation to actually unite and voice opposition for the heinous law.
This global crisis has become so dire that even one of the most anti-LGBTQ members in the U.S. Senate, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), has spoken out. In a tweet, Cruz called Brunei’s law “wrong” and “barbaric,” saying that “America should condemn this immoral and inhumane law, and everyone should be united against it.” And Cruz is right. The fact that a U.S. Senator known for his anti-LGBTQ record and an organization like GLAAD would stand together in opposition to Brunei’s new law proves that it’s not a heavy lift to condemn the stoning of human beings.
But while the State Department and the U.S. Ambassador of Germany — the highest-ranking LGBTQ official in the Trump administration — have both announced their opposition to this humanitarian crisis, Trump has not married that concern with any sort of words, to say nothing of deeds.
When we are talking about a human rights crisis in which people are under the threat of death for being who they are, a press release from a government agency does not suffice. Drastic punishments call for drastic pushback — and of all people, Trump knows that.
The people who are leading this charge, with the nation’s only gay ambassador at the forefront, are the ones who should be most irritated at the president’s failure to do so. At best, the silence makes them look like they are playing on different teams.
At worst, it makes it seem like he actually was never behind this campaign to begin with. Considering the president, when asked about the global campaign at a February press conference, seemed to be completely unaware that such a campaign even exists, the lack of leadership makes it appear that the Trump administration has no real passion behind the fight to decriminalize being LGBTQ worldwide.
JEREMY HOOPER is a writer, activist, and father in New York, N.Y. He is a consultant with GLAAD.