On Feb. 19 the White House announced its plan to advocate for the international decriminalization of homosexuality.
Although it is still early, details of its plan for this pursuit are few and far between, which is not abnormal for the Trump administration.
The announcement was immediately followed by activity at the United States Embassy in Berlin. LGBT advocates from around Europe were assembled to discuss strategy and goals for the upcoming push.
The move by the White House seems shocking and even hypocritical, at first glance. The administration has a history of scaling back the individual rights and protection LGBT peoples.
Not only has the president made efforts to diminish the scope of protection for LGBT individuals in employment law, but has banned the military from “accept[ing] or allow[ing]” transgender Americans to serve amongst their ranks.”
Vice President Mike Pence has also drawn attention and criticism of the administration’s stance on LGBT rights. Since the announcement that Pence would be Trump’s running mate, the former Indiana governor has been under fire for his support of “conversion therapy,” a discredited medical practice that seeks to alter an individual’s sexual orientation.
Most recently Pence’s wife Karen has sparked controversy with her decision to accept a teaching position at a school that has a strict “biblical morality” policy. The application defines disqualifying activities as:
“Moral misconduct violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the follow: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites.”
The recent decision to push for the international decriminalization of homosexuality is puzzling when considered in conjunction with the track record of the president and his right-hand man.
Although their policies are far from criminalizing homosexuality, they do diminish the positive freedom of LGBT Americans. Sociologically, the term positive freedom refers to an individual’s ability to choose their life and influence their own outcomes.
Conversely, negative freedom simply embodies the freedom of an individual to act without government intervention.
For example, those individuals who may choose to sleep underneath a bridge without being arrested or told to leave would possess a high level of negative freedom.
Those individuals who have the ability to make decisions and actions that allow them to pursue a better life for themselves, without being constrained by race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation, would possess a large amount of positive freedom.
To be truly free and to engage in the pursuit of happiness promised to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence, an individual must possess positive and negative freedom.
This sociological principle is crucial in understanding the level of hypocrisy inherent in the Trump Administration’s decision to push for international decriminalization of homosexuality.
International decriminalization of homosexuality would allow LGBT people worldwide to pursue homosexual relationships without fear of government prosecution, exponentially increasing their negative freedom.
How can the White House in good conscience advocate for this, while simultaneously supporting policies that actively diminish the positive freedom, the ability to build better lives and be equal, for LGBT Americans?
Speaking from this place of hypocrisy discredits the Trump Administration’s aura of legitimacy in the international human rights community, brings the true motivations of these actions into question and will more than likely prevent it’s own success in the pursuit of international decriminalization of homosexuality.