Trump appears unaware of push to decriminalise homosexuality globally

Combined picture of President Trump and US ambassador Richard Allen Grenell, who is reportedly leading a push to decriminalise homosexuality around the world.

President Donald Trump was unable to answer a question about his administration’s push to decriminalise homosexuality around the world.

Trump was asked by a journalist to comment on an NBC News report that his openly gay ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, is pushing to decriminalise homosexuality around the world.

The exchange was caught on camera and reported in the official transcript of the exchange with the media ahead of the president’s meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the White House on Wednesday (February 20).

“Government officials must work harder to demand that UN Members decriminalise homosexuality.”

— Richard Grenell

“Mr. President, on your push to decriminalise homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?” the journalist asked.

Trump asked the journalist to repeat the question.

“Your push to decriminalise homosexuality around the world,” the journalist clarified.

Trump answered: “I don’t know which report you’re talking about.  We have many reports.”

US Ambassador Richard Grenell gets in his car after an accreditation ceremony for new Ambassadors in Berlin, Germany, on May 08, 2018.

US Ambassador Richard Grenell is reportedly expected to visit the White House this week. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty)

He then swiftly moved on. “Anybody else?” he asked, taking on more questions. No one else asked him to clarify whether he had any conversation with Grenell.

According to NBC, the US embassy in Germany flew in LGBT+ campaigners from across Europe for a “strategy dinner” on Tuesday (February 19) to plan the push for decriminalisation of homosexuality, mainly in countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.

An embassy spokesperson told PinkNews the LGBT+ activists came from countries including Turkey, Lithuania, Ukraine, Estonia, France among others. Stuart Milk of the Milk Foundation was also in attendance of the dinner, hosted by Ambassador Grenell.

“The White House and State Department are aware of and back the initiative, which is specifically aimed at decriminalising LGBTI status and activity in the 71 countries where it is illegal,” the spokesperson added.

Ambassador Grenell meeting ‘not a big policy departure’

State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino confirmed the meeting had taken place during a press briefing on Tuesday, but minimised the significance of the encounter.

“This really is not a big policy departure. This is longstanding and it’s bipartisan,” Palladino said, adding: ” I would say that this is a good opportunity to listen and to discuss ideas about how the United States can advance decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world, and that’s been our policy.”

Some 70 countries or territories around the world retain laws—usually inherited by colonial powers such as Britain and France—punishing homosexuality or gay sex.

Angola is believed to be the first country of 2019 to have decriminalised homosexuality. Kenya could soon follow, should a petition to the High Court succeed this month.

Ambassador Grenell called for push to decriminalise homosexuality

Earlier this month, Grenell published an opinion piece in German publication Bild condemning the reportedly public execution of a man accused of having gay sex and kidnapping two teenage boys in Iran.

“Government officials must work harder to demand that UN Members decriminalise homosexuality,” Grenell wrote in the column.

The US currently lacks an Ambassador to the United Nations, after Nikki Haley resigned from the role in October.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, a former Fox News broadcaster with no background in diplomacy or policymaking, was expected to be nominated to succeed Haley, but she formally withdrew from consideration on February 16.

Grenell was seen as one of the candidates to the position—but, according to CNN, he is not Trump’s first choice. CNN also reported that Grenell is expected to hold “unplanned meetings at the White House” this week.

This article was updated with a comment from the US Embassy in Berlin received after publication.