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Trump seemed unaware of US plans to decriminalize homosexuality



US President Donald Trump seemed unaware of his own administration’s plans to end the criminalization of homosexuality around the world when asked about it on Wednesday.

Following reports that the Trump administration will launch a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality, a reporter asked Trump in the Oval Office: “Mr. President, on your push to decriminalize homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?”

Trump asked the reporter to repeat the question, and then said: “I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports.”

NBC News r eported on Tuesday that the Trump White House would campaign for a change in laws in dozens of countries where it is illegal to be gay, citing administration officials.

The campaign is aimed in part at denouncing Iran’s human rights record, NBC News said.

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, who is openly gay, plans to lead the campaign and discussed the effort with a dozen LGBTQ activists from around Europe at a dinner in Berlin on Tuesday night, The New York Times reported.

Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July 2018. He is slated to head the White House’s campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in dozens of countries.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

But the Times noted that the State Department in Washington has not announced a new global campaign, making it unclear how official or powerful the ambassador’s plan is, or how it differs from current US policy.

In an interview with NBC News, Grenell said that the effort would be much broader than putting pressure on Iran. “This is not just about Iran,” he said. “This is about 71 countries, and Iran is one of them.”

Homosexuality is still illegal in nearly 40% of countries in the United Nations, while being gay is punishable by death in a number of US-allied countries, such as Saudi Arabia. It is not clear how much pressure the US would put on these allies.

Read more: 10 maps show how different LGBTQ rights are around the world

Grenell said that the Trump administration has the backing of Republicans to lead the efforts.

LGBT activists have expressed skepticism of the campaign in light of Trump’s policies in the US.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told NBC News: “We’d believe that the Trump administration will work to protect LGBTQ people around the world if they had not attacked LGBTQ people in the US over 90 times since taking office.”

While he campaigned on a platform of helping LGBT people, Trump has faced widespread criticism for moves like banning transgender service people from the military and for promoting anti-LGBT figures to key posts in his administration.

New Yorkers protest after Trump first suggested banning transgender people from military service in July 2017.
Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Stuart Milk, an LGBT activist and nephew of civil rights leader Harvey Milk, who was at Grenell’s dinner in Berlin, told NBC News that he would support any campaign for decriminalization but noted that it is “unique” to have a right-leaning administration “leading the charge on an issue that does make a difference in people’s lives.”

“My criticism of the Trump administration has been steady,” Milk said. “I have actually said that policies coming out of the White House and statements have been life-negating, not just for LGBT people but for many, many communities.”

“But when any administration does something right, we’re going to be there.”

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