August 4, 2015 at 11:07 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Kerry travels to Egypt, Qatar

John Kerry, State Department, gay news, Washington Blade, GLIFAA

It is unclear whether Secretary of State John Kerry specifically discussed LGBT rights while in Egypt and Qatar earlier this week. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A State Department spokesperson on Tuesday declined to say whether Secretary of State John Kerry specifically raised LGBT rights earlier this week while in Egypt and Qatar.

“We consistently raise our commitment to the human rights of all people,” the spokesperson said in a statement, responding to a question the Washington Blade asked on Monday during the State Department’s daily press briefing. “We are not going to comment on specifics of our diplomatic conversations. We reiterate our commitment to advancing and defending the rights of LGBT people in Egypt and elsewhere.”

Kerry on Sunday met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo. The State Department said that Kerry and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski met with members of Egyptian civil society while in the country.

“We discussed the need for comprehensive reform in the political sector, protection for non-governmental organizations, for press freedom and for safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians,” Kerry told reporters on Sunday during a press conference with Shoukry in Cairo.

Kerry on Monday met with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Kerry also met with his counterparts from the Gulf Coorporation Council — which includes Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to discuss the deal reached over Iran’s nuclear program, the civil war in Yemen, the Islamic State and other issues. Kerry discussed Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel al-Jubeir in Doha before traveling to Singapore.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain illegal in Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Those convicted of homosexuality in Saudi Arabia and Qatar could face the death penalty.

Egypt’s LGBT rights record has come under increased international scrutiny since last December when police raided a Cairo bathhouse and charged 26 men with “debauchery.”

An Egyptian court in January acquitted the men, but police a few weeks later arrested seven “transsexuals” who were part of an alleged “network of debauchery in Cairo.” Another Egyptian court in April ruled that authorities can deport gay foreigners and ban them from entering the country.

Kerry in March met with al-Sisi and other Egyptian officials during an economic development conference in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. Kerry in June 2014 met with then-Saudi King Abdullah to discuss the Islamic State gaining control of wide swaths of Iraq.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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