Politicians, faith leaders, and LGBTQ organizations have joined together to urge the Trump administration to condemn Brunei’s anti-gay stoning law “in the strongest terms possible.”
The plea was made in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday.
In the message, 100 civil rights leaders, religious organizations, and lawmakers urge the State Department to “make bringing an end to these barbaric practices a key foreign policy priority of the United States and to use all diplomatic tools and avenues” to oppose Brunei’s death penalty policy.
“It is a grotesque understatement to assert that a state-sanctioned death penalty for LGBTQ people and those who commit ‘adultery,’ amputation for robbery, flogging of women who have abortions, and criminalization of exposing Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam are violations of basic human rights, religious freedom, the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and international norms,” the letter to Pompeo’s office claims.
As of April 3, individuals found guilty of same-sex intercourse will be subject to stoning under Brunei’s misguided interpretation of Sharia law. Although the Muslim sultanate originally instituted the policy in 2014, it has been tabled for several years. The sultan of Brunei claims the long-delayed policy was put forward following “special guidance” from Allah.
According to the signatories, governmental policies targeting “minority groups for persecution, abuse, and murder” clearly constitute “crimes against humanity.” These practices “must be rejected and sanctioned by the United States,” they claim.
“We urge you to condemn Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s appalling decision to begin implementing SPCO 2013 immediately and to use all diplomatic tools and avenues—including the imposition of sanctions, barring the Sultan and other senior Brunei government officials from entering the United States, and the seizure of assets—if the law is not withdrawn,” the letter continues.
The signatories include nearly every major LGBTQ organization in the U.S., including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Center for Transgender Equality, and The Trevor Project. They were joined by California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and California Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), both of whom are openly gay, and U.S. faith organizations, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Equality California, which coordinated the letter, has strong words for the Trump administration’s inaction on Brunei’s stoning laws. President Trump has yet to address its death penalty policy for homosexuality in any public capacity. When approached by The Daily Beast, the Department of State offered that it was “concerned with Brunei’s decision” but declined to censure the policy.
“It's unconscionable that Secretary Pompeo has not even condemned these clear violations of human rights—let alone taken action to stop them—abdicating the United States' position as a moral leader in the world,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement.
Zbur claimed Brunei is hardly the only example of the White House tolerating anti-LGBTQ regimes.
“The president continues to pal around with Russian President Vladimir Putin as gay men in Chechnya are imprisoned, tortured, and murdered for their sexual orientation,” he said, adding that the U.S. allies continues to count Saudi Arabia as an ally. In the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation, the death penalty continues to be “imposed as a punishment for consensual activities between LGBTQ adults.”
As the statewide advocacy group notes, Trump has a long history of silence on anti-LGBTQ abuses in foreign countries. Nearly more than two years after reports claimed that over 100 men suspected of being gay or bisexual were detained by Chechen police, the president has yet to speak about the homophobic purge. Arrestees were beaten, tortured, electrocuted, and sexually assaulted. At least two individuals are alleged to have died as a result of their detention, including a gay Russian singer.
Trump has also failed to condemn similar anti-LGBTQ campaigns in countries like Azerbaijan, Egypt, Malaysia, and Turkmenistan.
However, there is some precedent for the federal government under Trump condemning foreign abuses waged against LGBTQ people. In December 2017, the Treasury Department blacklisted Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov under the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which allows officials to sanction leaders suspected of violating human rights. The decision served to freeze Kadyrov’s U.S. assets and banned him from obtaining a visa to enter the country.
LGBTQ advocates and their allies are calling on the Trump administration to take that step once more.
“The anti-gay extremism in Brunei is a human rights issue of the utmost urgency,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), claimed in a statement. “It is imperative that the United States use every means available to stop the atrocities being perpetrated by the Brunei government against its own people.”
Celebrities like George Clooney, Elton John, and Ellen Degeneres have also called for a boycott of the Sultan’s properties, which include the Beverly Hills Hotel. Companies like Deutsche Bank and STA Travel have already pulled business from Brunei over the policy.