By Michael K. Lavers
LGBT activists around the world are increasingly concerned about the potential impact that a Donald Trump presidency could have overseas.
Ahmed “Danny” Ramadan, a gay Syrian man who received asylum in Canada in 2014, described Trump as “a scary figure” who “started as a joke.”
“He is in a position to actually lead one of the most powerful countries in the world,” Ramadan told the Washington Blade this week in an email from Vancouver. “Donald Trump built his whole campaign on his attacks against immigrants like me, coming from the other side of the world and trying to build honest and beautiful lives for ourselves in the West.”
Trump sparked outrage in June 2015 when he described Mexicans as “rapists” at his campaign announcement. LGBT advocacy groups sharply criticized the billionaire Republican a few months later when he proposed a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the U.S.
Trump made the announcement days after a couple who had pledged their allegiance to the so-called Islamic State killed 14 people and wounded 20 others at a social service center in San Bernardino, California. ISIS also claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Paris last November that left more than 100 people dead.
Trump reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. in the wake of the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and 53 others injured. He also said his administration would suspend immigration “when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies.”
Trump announced last month that his administration would ban immigrants “from some of the most dangerous and most volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.” He also said potential immigrants to the U.S. would be required to pass an “ideological test” that would include LGBT-specific questions.
“This guy plainly said he’s going to put a cap on Muslims entering the United States,” said Tarek Zeidan, a Lebanese LGBT activist who is currently studying at Harvard University.
Tommy Chen of Rainbow Action, an advocacy group in Hong Kong, told the Blade this week that the Obama administration’s efforts to promote LGBT rights abroad have had a direct impact in the former British colony. He expressed doubts that these policies would continue if Trump were elected.
“As a community we have strong doubts about Donald Trump’s implementation of policies that will effect the LGBT community, in the U.S., and its effects around the world,” said Chen.
Juana Mora , an independent Cuban LGBT activist, was far more blunt.
“Donald Trump would be a disaster for the LGBTI community,” she told the Blade this week from Havana.
Mora said a Trump presidency would also have an adverse impact on the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba that Obama announced in 2014. Maykel Gonzalez, a journalist and independent LGBT activist who lives in the Cuban city of Sagua la Grande, agreed.
“The process of normalizing relations began with the Democrats,” Gonzalez told the Blade. “We all believe on the island that this would continue better if the Democrats maintain the president.”
An activist in Mauritania with whom the Blade spoke said Trump could bolster the country’s LGBT rights movement.
Mauritania is among the handful of countries in which homosexuality remains punishable by death. The activist with whom the Blade spoke said Trump could help address long-standing racial inequalities in the country.
“I’m with Trump,” said the activist.
Clinton recognized for ‘gay rights are human rights’ speech
Activists with whom the Blade has previously spoken have pointed out Clinton delivered her landmark “gay rights are human rights” speech in Geneva in 2011. The Obama administration on the same day directed government agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, opposed these efforts when he was a member of the House of Representatives.
“We, along with many other organizations, have welcomed the proactive and positive role taken by the current U.S. administration to advance LGBTI equality in the world,” ILGA-Europe told the Blade this week in a statement. “We can only hope that the next U.S. administration, whatever its make-up, continues to support LGBTI equality, both in word and deed.”
Francisco Robledo, director of the Workplace Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion in Mexico City, said he remains confident the U.S. would continue to promote LGBT rights abroad if Clinton were elected. He told the Blade these efforts would have a positive impact around the world.
“The dominoes would fall rapidly in Mexico and in other countries,” said Robleado.
“The LGBTI community would continue to have successes in its social struggles for the recognition of our rights,” she said.
Erick Martinez, a Honduran LGBT rights activist, noted Clinton’s response to the 2009 coup that toppled then-President Manuel Zelaya has been criticized. He nevertheless said the former secretary of state would do more to promote global LGBT rights than Trump.
“She would maintain the work that President Obama has developed,” said Martinez.
Clinton continues to face criticism from Trump and Republican lawmakers over her handling of the 2012 raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
A gay activist in Benghazi told the Blade that many Libyans “don’t like” Clinton because of the incident. Zeidan said many people in the Middle East also distrust the former secretary of state because of her “hawkish” foreign policy and her relationships with Egypt and other countries in which LGBT people continue to face persecution.
Clinton last week applauded the announcement that the U.S. would provide the Israeli military with $38 billion over the next decade.
“America’s commitment to Israel’s security must always remain rock-solid and unwavering,” she said in a statement.
Zeidan told the Blade that many people in the Middle East remain critical of U.S. involvement in human rights and other issues within the region.
“With a Hillary win, the programs that we have seen set in place and the positions … will likely continue,” he said.