September 26, 2018 at 11:58 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Trump UN speech sparks renewed criticism from LGBTI activists
president, gay news, Washington Blade

President Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, sparked renewed criticism from LGBTI activists. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday prompted renewed criticism from LGBTI rights activists.

He prompted audible laughter when he said his “administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

Trump said the U.N. Human Rights Council, from which the U.S. withdrew in June, “had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.”

“Our ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken,” said Trump. “So, the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.”

Trump also said the U.S. “will provide no support in recognition to the” International Criminal Court.

“As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority,” he said.  “The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.”

“America is governed by Americans,” added Trump. “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Trump in his speech also said the U.S. “will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.”

“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions,” he said. “The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.  We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in a statement sharply criticized Trump’s speech.

“As an international LGBTIQ human rights organization, we know that sovereignty and claims to tradition, belief, and custom, have been used repeatedly to trample on the human rights of LGBTIQ people, women, people of color, religious minorities and anyone driven to the margins of society,” she said. “These are excuses states use to advance a patriarchal, nationalistic agenda.”

Stern also said Trump was “short sighted when he asks nations to ‘choose a future of patriotism.’”

“That ignores the fact that we are all different in some way,” she said. “Plurality and diversity make all our nations stronger. The future lies in embracing our collective differences.”

The Human Rights Campaign also criticized Trump.

“We need a leader who will talk about human rights and LGBTQ people when on the world stage,” it said in a Tweet. “But [Trump] consistently fails marginalized people by refusing to defend our human rights.”

OutRight Action International and HRC both sharply criticized Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 2017.

State Department officials with whom the Washington Blade has spoken since Trump took office insist the U.S. continues to support LGBTI rights abroad. The White House nevertheless continues to face widespread criticism over its anti-LGBTI policies in the U.S. and its overall foreign policy.

The U.S. is among the more than three dozen countries that are part of the Equal Rights Coalition, which seeks to advance LGBTI rights around the world.

Trump has not publicly commented on the crackdown against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, even though Haley and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert have condemned it. The U.S. Embassy in India was illuminated in rainbow colors to celebrate the ruling that struck down the country’s sodomy law.

A then-staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba tied a rainbow flag to the fence in May to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

A Pride flag is attached to the fence around the U.S. Embassy in Havana on May 13, 2018, in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The White House has yet to respond to the Blade’s request for comment on whether Trump’s speech indicates the U.S. will no longer promote human rights abroad as part of its foreign policy.

UN reiterates support of LGBTI rights

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday during a U.N. LGBTI Core Group event that took place alongside the U.N. General Assembly reiterated his organization’s support for LGBTI rights around the world.

“The United Nations stands up for the rights of the LGBTI community,” he said in a video message that was shown at the beginning of the event.

Guterres in his message noted many members of the LGBTI community “are imprisoned, abused and even killed simply for who they are or whom they love.” Guterres also pointed out the India Supreme Court earlier this month struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy law.

“But so long as people face criminalization, bias and violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, we must redouble our efforts to end these violations,” he said.

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let me underscore that the United Nations will never give up the fight until everyone can live free and equal in dignity and rights,” added Guterres.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who is the former president of Chile, also spoke at the event that took place hours after Trump’s speech.

Officials from the European Union, Norway, the Netherlands, Argentina, Latvia, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Uruguay took part. OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern, Ugandan LGBTI rights activist Kasha Nabagesera, photographer Robin Hammond and U.N. Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard participated in a panel.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby; Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council Courtney Nemroff and Sofija Korać, a foreign affairs officer at the State Department, attended the event but did not speak.

Chris Johnson contributed to this article.

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

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