Many Americans were outraged by the recent headlines about a new law in Brunei that will allow for death by stoning for the crime of homosexual sex. Yet the criminalization of same-sex relations is still happening in more than 70 countries. At least six additional (countries) implement the death penalty for gay sex: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia. Only five countries in the world – Bolivia, Ecuador, Fiji, Malta and the United Kingdom – have constitutions that explicitly guarantee equality for citizens on the basis of sexual orientation as well as gender identity.
As hard-liner authoritarian political parties continue to gain popularity in Europe and around the world, we again see LGBTQ people being used as political pawns. Recently, Poland’s ruling political party brought LGBTQ discrimination to the forefront of the election there, claiming that the opposition’s support for new LGBTQ-aware education is a threat to traditional Catholic values and Polish culture.
Despite these steps backward, there is an opportunity here for the international community, and not just LGBTQ people, to play a role in securing basic human rights for LGBTQ people across the globe, and for the U.S. to take the lead. The Catholic Church and the United Nations can also play vital roles.
I’m sure many will scoff that I suggest the United States take the lead in advocating for gay rights across the globe. President (Donald) Trump banned transgender people from the military, stacked the courts with judges who have terrible records on LGBTQ issues and even refused to recognize Pride Month. But internationally, the issue of LGBTQ rights has been gaining steam, with notable support by the highest openly gay official in the Trump administration. U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell launched an international campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality as part of a response to the hanging of a young gay man in Iran.