The Trump administration’s push to decriminalize homosexuality abroad — which the president seemed strangely unaware of when questioned by reporters this week — is drawing the ire of the religious right.
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany and the highest-ranking openly gay official in the administration, is leading the effort to persuade countries where homosexuality is illegal to change their laws, administration officials said Tuesday. Grenell wrote an article on the plan for a German newspaper, referring to Iran’s reported execution of a man believed to be gay as an example of the harm caused by such laws. The campaign has met with skepticism from LGBTQ advocates, given the administration’s homophobic and transphobic domestic policies.
Religious right activists, while not endorsing the death penalty for LGBTQ people, denounced the push for decriminalization.
“Let’s find common ground in calling for an end to all forms of physical violence against homosexuals — but refrain from imposing the values of the sexual revolution on the rest of the world.” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a longtime supporter of Donald Trump, wrote in his Washington Update column Thursday.
President Barack Obama’s administration had made promoting LGBTQ rights part of its diplomatic efforts, something that the far right decried, and it continues to do so. “The Trump administration should be ending such efforts, not making them a priority,” Perkins wrote.
Massachusetts minister and occasional political candidate Scott Lively, always a virulent homophobe, was even more pointed in a column for World Net Daily, a right-wing website. “Reasonable tolerance and sympathy for people who suffer from same-sex attraction disorder is warranted — as is protecting them from violence — but sanitizing homosexuality and transgenderism as if they were morally, psychologically and behaviorally equivalent to sexual and gender normalcy is PC-driven lunacy,” he wrote. “Indeed, that ideology is a central cause of the mental illness called progressivism,” which “is already spreading like a cancer.”
In a commentary for BarbWire, another far-right site, Julio Severo denounced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a conservative Christian, for supporting Grenell’s effort, and took the opportunity to accuse LGBTQ people of being a danger to children.
“Such push coming from the Trump administration is a shame.” Severo wrote. “Coming from an evangelical who is the State Secretary, helping homosexual activist Grenell, is a bigger shame, because he is doing exactly what left-wing Protestant Hillary Clinton was doing when she was also a State Secretary.”
“When I think about violence and homosexuality, the first thought coming to my mind is not individuals suffering violence for their sexual lifestyle,” he added. “The first thinking is children suffering homosexual violence — physical and psychological. There is a massive effort to cover up the suffering of children in the hands of homosexual predators.”
Scientists have found no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, but Severo continued to push the assertion that gays are predators, and he blamed gay priests for the widespread abuse of children and teens in the Roman Catholic Church. The church “is a living evidence of the gravity of homosexual violence against children,” he contended.
The commentators were still reluctant to blame Trump for the decriminalization campaign. “I have long stated that I believe Donald Trump is God’s man in the White House, and I still believe that because I assume he does not yet have full control of the State Department (the deepest part of the deep state),” Lively wrote. “Yet, the president should remember that God’s hand of favor has many times been withdrawn from His chosen men when they departed from His agenda.” The “deep state” is far-right activists’ term for entrenched government interests they believe to be working to undermine Trump, often in secret.
Perkins was encouraged that Trump seemed not to know of the campaign when reporters asked him about it Wednesday. “I don’t know which report you’re talking about,” the president said. “We have many reports.” This led Perkins to write, “It doesn’t seem that President Trump — or anyone else in the administration — authorized this ‘campaign.’”
There may be another reason for Trump appearing to be ignorant of the move, however. New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman floated a possible explanation on Twitter.
Or he does and doesn’t want to acknowledge on camera because it risks offending portions of his base. https://t.co/pHiskLRmTv
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 21, 2019