Mick Mulvaney, Donald Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has actually suggested that the current administration end its practice of penalizing African nations that criminalize homosexuality.
During a speech at last week’s State Department Ministerial on International Religious Freedom, Mulvaney, a Republican, equated punishing countries with anti-gay laws on the books to the “religious persecution” of Christians:
Our U.S. taxpayer dollars are used 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.’ ’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 is a different type of religious persecution that I never expected to see.
Notably, Mulvaney’s claim that the U.S. government punished African countries for having “laws against gay marriage” is a bit of a stretch. Although the Obama administration did threaten to withhold monetary aid from African nations with anti-gay legislation on the books, that reaction was a response to laws that criminalize homosexuality itself and actively land LGBTQ people in jail.
Persecution of LGBTQ Africans under anti-gay laws isn’t new. In October 2016, a gay couple in Ivory Coast was imprisoned for three months solely for having sex. As recently as last December, a woman from Tanzania was arrested for kissing another woman in public.
The ramifications of such laws, both culturally and politically, are just as bad. In 2014, a gay Ugandan man was pulled from his home, beaten by an angry mob, and forced to undergo anal probing at a clinic to “prove” he was gay. And in March 2016, former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe revoked his request for $1.6 million of foreign aid when he realized it would come from countries that recognize LGBTQ rights.