Much has been made of the lack of attention to human rights by President Trump on his recent excursion to Asia. This, by and of itself, represents the US giving up the mantel on this subject since we first gained prominence on the issue during the Jimmy Carter administration in the 1970s. We were the international leader for this proud cause, and president after president – regardless of being a Democrat or a Republican – raised it on foreign trips. We are told that Trump mentioned the topic of human rights only in passing to the president of the Philippines during this trip.
This is a warning sign for many in the LGBT community throughout the world. Recall a nation called Uganda: If it were not for the intervention of the US, its legislature would right now have a “Kill the Gays” law.
So let’s take this a step at a time, and see where we are. The best way to do that is by noting what others have stated: President Trump likes strongmen with authoritarian governments.
The two cases that are clear are Russia and Egypt. Russia, under Vladimir Putin, has become a homophobic state; all one has to do is mention Chechnya. The killings of LGBT people in that part of the Russian-controlled territory are so outrageous that both houses of the US Congress condemned it; the Senate resolution doing so was led in part by a Republican senator, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. But what did the Trump administration do about Chechnya?
The US State Department put out a press release April 7th headlined: “The US Concerned by Reports of Detentions and Deaths of LGBTI Individuals in Chechnya, Russia.” It was a strong press release, but nothing more happened. How do I know this? This week I tried calling, e-mailing and, like other journalists have been, was put on the State Department merry-go-round. But hey, that’s only one country.
There is also Egypt, where LGBT people have been imprisoned and beaten simply for holding a rainbow flag at a concert in a country that Amnesty International says is experiencing the worst crackdown on the LGBT community.
Yet, nothing from the Trump administration during the Egyptian president’s recent visit to the US. So those are the most recent examples, but what else has Trump said or not said? He condemned terrorists who tossed LGBT people from a building, but remained quiet while LGBT people were imprisoned, beaten and harassed by our allies among the Gulf States.
What about Turkey, which this year wouldn’t even allow a gay Pride celebration – and those who attempted to stage such were arrested or beaten? Nothing.
There are many cute, insulting or snarky ways this column could end, but, simply put, President Trump, do you know what will happen if you do not speak up for human rights, specifically LGBT rights?
People will die.
Preventing that, Mr. President, would be presidential.