White House Will Not Push LGBTQ Rights in Africa, Trump Officials Say

Officials in the White House criticized former President Obama’s support of LGBTQ rights in Africa during a “religious freedom” summit in Washington, D.C.

Speaking at the Ministerial To Advance Religious Freedom on Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney criticized the previous administration for allegedly using taxpayer dollars “to discourage Christian values in other democratic countries.”

“It was stunning to me that my government under a previous administration would go to folks in sub-Saharan Africa and say, ‘We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money,'” Mulvaney claimed at the inaugural event. “‘We know you have a law against gay marriage, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.'”

“That’s a different type of religious persecution,” he added. “[…] That is a different type of religious persecution that I never expected to see. I never expected to see that as an American Christian.”

In 2016, the Obama administration announced it would prohibit the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from offering contracts to organizations that discriminate against LGBTQ people. Thus, if an NGO in Tanzania refuses to aid queer and transgender clients because of their identity, it would be ineligible to receive funding from the U.S. government.

During a press conference held with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta the year before, Obama criticized the persecution of individuals based solely on “who they love.”

“I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this,” he said in a meeting at the president’s official residence in Nairobi. “When you start treating people differently, because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.”

But Mulvaney signaled the government would pivot away from any kind of pro-LGBTQ advocacy in foreign relations.

“There are a lot of people here who want to change outcomes,” he continued. “There are a lot of people in this government who just want to see things done differently. […] I trust Ambassador Brownback. And I’m so excited that the president actually made a commitment as part of this administration to put somebody of his credibility and his stature in a role like this.”

Sam Brownback, the United States ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, further signaled a shift from the previous administration on the subject of international LGBTQ rights.

“The ability to live according to the dictates of your own soul is under attack,” said Brownback in comments deliver earlier this week.

Both officials have a marked track record of opposing LGBTQ rights.

Mulvaney, a former U.S. House representative for South Carolina’s Fifth District, was an early co-sponsor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which would allow people of faith sweeping license to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of religion. He’s also alleged to have targeted Democratic opponent Mandy Powers Norrell as a supporter of “homosexual unions and abortion rights” in a fake robocall.

Meanwhile, Brownback once referred to same-sex unions as a “vast social experiment” which would “take the sacredness out of marriage.” As the governor of Kansas, he supported a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and rescinded protections for LGBTQ workers.

Both politicians have received a rating of zero from the Human Rights Campaign on LGBTQ rights.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Republicans were joined at this week’s “religious freedom” summit by a litany of hate groups, including the Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom. Those far-right activist organizations are behind nearly every piece of anti-equality legislation pushed in the U.S., including anti-trans bathroom bills introduced in dozens of states.

Meanwhile, the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council praised the meeting, claiming it would “send a very strong message that America is once again concerned about religious freedom.”

Earlier this year, it was announced that FRC President Tony Perkins — who believes homosexuality should be recriminalized — was appointed to a post on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly suggested him for the position.

But prior to the three-day event, the current occupants of the White House already signaled their intention to break from the prior administration on global LGBTQ rights.

President Trump has yet to speak out against anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Azerbaijan, Chechnya, and Egypt resulting in the torture and imprisonment of hundreds of queer and trans people. Following a meeting with Egyptian President Fattah al-Sisi, Vice President Mike Pence refused to say whether he pressed the leader on LGBTQ rights.

In addition, Trump’s 2018 budget included a $800 million reduction in funding to efforts to reduce international rates of HIV/AIDS.

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