Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Brunei has begun implementing a draconian new law that, among other brutal punishments, imposes the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts and adultery. Around the world, governments, international institutions, human rights organizations, celebrities and many others have spoken out to condemn the new penal code that violates international human rights standards and imposes one of the most heinous punishments — death by stoning. Yet in the face of this crisis, other than the State Department putting out a statement saying it was concerned, the White House has remained unconscionably silent.
The horrific news in Brunei is a moment for outrage and action, and it is also a moment to call international attention to LGBTQ lives at grave risk in many places around the world. While our community has seen much progress in recent years, LGBTQ people in every country continue to face discrimination, persecution and often violence.
In at least 10 countries around the world, including Sudan, Mauritania, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and parts of Nigeria and Somalia, LGBTQ people could be put to death. And in 69 countries, consensual same-sex activity is still a crime.
State-sponsored homophobia and transphobia in places such as Chechnya, Tanzania and Egypt marginalize and dehumanize LGBTQ people. Government officials have used the power of their offices to attack our community, incite violence against us, round us up in mass purges and engage in the outright torture and murder of LGBTQ people.
Fueled by toxic bigotry and government inaction, there is a worldwide epidemic of violence against transgender people, especially against transgender women. And, tragically, the number of deaths seem to be rising. At least 369 trans people have been reported killed worldwide between November 2017 and November 2018, but the true number is likely significantly higher because it is probable that the majority of these crimes go unreported.
In the United States, where LGBTQ people have gained many legal protections and seen much progress, transgender people face incredible violence. At least 128 transgender people — the vast majority women of color — were killed between 2013 and 2018. Without explicit federal legal protections, LGBTQ people across our country are vulnerable to discrimination that robs them of opportunities to thrive, which why it’s so critical that we pass the Equality Act now.
As all of this is happening, President Trump and Vice President Pence don’t speak out against anti-LGBTQ violence and atrocities in our country and around the globe, fail to advance a U.S. foreign policy that promotes human rights, and turn a blind eye to those fleeing conflict and persecution. In fact, as the Trump administration actively undermines the LGBTQ community here at home, it is also doing nothing to protect LGBTQ people and others trying to flee severe violence in their home countries. On the contrary, it is shamefully trying to close our doors to them.
Our nation once proudly stood as a beacon of hope, yet the Trump administration has reduced refugee admission numbers to their lowest levels since the establishment of our modern refugee program. The administration is also trying to make it far more difficult for LGBTQ and other vulnerable people to claim asylum if they reach our shores and are tearing families apart once they get here.
We must continue to speak out and take action as leaders in Brunei, Chechnya, Tanzania and elsewhere threaten the lives of our community and others. We must call for an end to the deadly violence that LGBTQ people continue to face in the United States and around the world. We must let our friends, family and neighbors know why LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees look to our country with hope. And we must demand that the Trump administration demonstrate moral leadership and begin putting human rights first at home and abroad.