December 21, 2016 at 8:28 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Trump urged not to cut overseas LGBT aid

From left: OutRight Action International board member Aalap Shah, Jael Castillo Salazar of Belize, Tiq Milan and Ricky "Rikki" Nathanson of Zimbabwe speak about the global implications of President-elect Trump's election during a panel at the OutRight Action International summit in Long Island City, N.Y., on Dec. 10, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

From left: OutRight Action International board member Aalap Shah, Jael Castillo Salazar of Belize, Tiq Milan and Ricky “Rikki” Nathanson of Zimbabwe speak about the global implications of President-elect Trump’s election during a panel at the OutRight Action International summit in Long Island City, N.Y., on Dec. 10, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y. — Activists who gathered in New York City earlier this month said they remain concerned that the U.S. will no longer fund LGBT and intersex advocacy efforts abroad once President-elect Trump takes office.

Ricky “Ricki” Nathanson of the Sexual Rights Center’s Trans Research, Education, Advocacy and Training (TREAT) program in Zimbabwe was among the activists who discussed Trump’s election during a panel at OutRight Action International’s annual summit that took place at CUNY School of Law in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens on Dec. 10.

She said her organization relies “heavily on funding” from Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care and the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe and other non-governmental organizations that funds the distribution of condoms and lube and other HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. The Zimbabwean government and the groups that support the Sexual Rights Center receive funds from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Nathanson could not tell the Blade how much of her organization’s funding comes from U.S. sources, but she said the Canadian government has provided financial support. She also noted the Dutch Embassy in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare has hosted events that mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The Nederlands Netwerk Intersekse/DSD, an intersex advocacy organization, received 100,000 euros ($104,277) from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs this year to help fund its international advocacy efforts. The Dutch government also provides funding to COC Nederland and other advocacy groups.

“Should the assistance that we have been receiving from the Americans start dwindling, we have to look obviously to people like the Europeans,” said Nathanson.

Jael Castillo Salazar, president and co-founder of OurCircle, an advocacy group in Belize, said the U.S. Embassy “has actually been our biggest supporter in Belize in terms of advancing LGBT inclusion.”

The U.S. Embassy in the Belizean capital of Belmopan in June raised the Pride flag. This ceremony marked the first time the flag had been officially flown in the former British colony.

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin of the Belize Supreme Court in August ruled the country’s colonial-era sodomy law is unconstitutional. The Alliance Defending Freedom is among the U.S. groups that support Belize Action, an organization that opposed the lawsuit that challenged the statute.

Salazar said the UK, the EU and Mexico can do more to support Belize’s LGBT advocates once Trump takes office.

“This is the time for those bigger nations to step up,” she said.

Activists ‘have to be realistic’ about Trump

The promotion of LGBT rights has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during President Obama’s second term.

Obama in 2011 directed agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad.

The Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the State Department manages with USAID, has contributed more than $33 million to global LGBT advocacy efforts.

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster is among the openly gay men who represented the Obama abroad during his second term. Randy Berry in 2015 became the first special U.S. envoy to promote LGBT rights abroad.

“There has been bipartisan support for our human rights work broadly and on LGBTI issues,” said Berry at the OutRight Action International summit.

He added the constitution is “the bedrock of American values” that “enshrines freedoms of peaceful assembly, speech and association.”

“It affirms that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law,” said Berry. “These core principles will remain a driving force behind our diplomacy. And I know that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues at the State Department that we are very proud to work on this initiative.”

Clifton Cortez, who is the World Bank’s first LGBT and intersex advisor, noted Vice President-elect Pence is “one of the most anti-LGBT politicians that holds a governorship in the United States.”

Pence opposed U.S. efforts to promote gay rights abroad when he was a member of the House of Representatives. He also signed Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law in 2015.

LGBT rights advocates maintain that Pence supports so-called “conversion therapy.”

“We have to be realistic and assume that we’re going to see changed positions by the U.S. government, [or] at least [a] backing away from full-throated support that we’ve gotten used to in the Obama years,” said Cortez. “Our strategies have to begin to take that into account.”

Randy Berry, gay news, Washington Blade

Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry speaks at OutRight Action International’s annual summit at the CUNY School of Law in Long Island City, N.Y., on Dec. 10, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Cortez and other panelists spoke shortly after NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported that Trump was going to nominate ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Trump formally announced Tillerson’s nomination on Dec. 13.

ExxonMobil in 2015 added sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy. Freedom to Work, an LGBT advocacy group, in 2013 filed a complaint against the company that alleged it showed bias against gay prospective employees.

Tillerson was a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s executive board when it voted to allow openly gay scouts in 2013. Lawmakers and activists have expressed concern over Tillerson’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who signed his country’s controversial law banning the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors in 2013.

Trump’s transition team last week dismissed Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ request to remove State Department personnel who promote LGBT and reproductive rights. State Department spokesperson John Kirby told the Blade on Monday the incoming administration “pushed back pretty hard” against the anti-LGBT activist.

A spokesperson for Trump’s transition team did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment for this story.

Iraqi activist vows to stand up for Muslims

Advocates with whom the Blade has previously spoken have criticized Trump over his pledge to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The president-elect reiterated this pledge in the wake of the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The gunman, who was born in New York to parents from Afghanistan, pledged his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State during a 911 call he made from inside the nightclub that was popular among Orlando’s LGBT Latino community. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and other U.S. officials maintain the terrorist group did not prompt the gunman to carry out the massacre.

Trump in August said his administration would require potential immigrants to the U.S. to pass an “ideological test” that would include questions about LGBT rights. The Republican billionaire also announced he would prevent terrorist “sympathizers” from entering the country and the U.S. “must also screen out any and all hostile attitudes towards our country, our principles or (those) who believe sharia law should supplant American law.”

ISIS on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a truck attack at a Christmas market in Berlin the day before that killed 12 people and left dozens of others injured. An off-duty police officer assassinated Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov hours earlier at an art gallery in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

“Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday,” said Trump in a statement on the Berlin attack that his transition team released. “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”

Amir Ashour, executive director of IraQueer, an organization that advocates on behalf of LGBT Iraqis, is among those who spoke about terrorism and its impact on LGBT communities around the world at the OutRight Action International summit. Emirhan Deniz Celebi, an LGBT rights activist who is based in Istanbul, also took part in the panel.

ISIS has publicly executed dozens of men in Iraq and Syria who have been accused of sodomy. It has also been linked to terrorist attacks in the U.S., Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium and other countries since 2014.

“I am not Muslim, but I will always stand up for Muslims,” said Ashour.

“In order for me to exist, I have to make sure that others exist as well,” he added.

Amire Ashour, gay news, Washington Blade

Amir Ashour, executive director of IraQueer, speaks at OutRight Action International’s annual summit at CUNY Law School in Long Island City, N.Y., on Dec. 10, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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

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