Associated Press Grills State Dept. for Defending LGBTI Human Rights

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert speaks in the press briefing room at the Department of State on November 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Nauert addressed the media on Thursday about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his future at the State Department. (Photo …
Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Associated Press’s Matt Lee grilled State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Secretary Mike Pompeo’s statement Thursday supporting the “fundamental rights” of the LGBTI community, accusing Pompeo of hypocrisy.

“About the LGBTI discrimination, anti-discrimination day, basically. It says in there, ‘The United States firmly opposes criminalization, violence, and serious acts of discrimination such as in housing, employment, and government services, directed against LGBTI persons,’” the reporter said, referring to Pompeo’s recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

“And I’m just wondering how it is that you guys can say this – or say it and expect to be taken seriously – when this administration’s stated policy is to discriminate against transgender people by not allowing them to serve in the military,” he said.

“Matt, let me first start out by saying the secretary released a statement earlier today,” Nauert said. “This is a matter that’s important to the State Department.”

“Promoting, protecting, and advancing human rights, including the rights of LGBTI persons, has long been and continues to remain the policy of the United States Government,” Nauert said, then referring to a United Nations declaration.

“As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights,’” Nauert said.

“In terms of what you’re addressing with regard to the Department of Defense and its policies, it’s a matter that’s being handled in multiple courts right now,” Nauert said. “I’m not going to get ahead of the court process, but DOD will continue to comply with the court rules.”

Nauert tried to move on to other questions, but Lee persisted.

“I get that,” he said. “But I mean, it’s – but that’s what the policy is.”

“Whether or not the courts rule on it or not, the president has tweeted that that is his policy,” he said. “And on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia for the United States – I don’t understand how it’s consistent for the U.S. to stand with LGBTI people when the stated policy is to discriminate against it, at least one section of it.”

Matt, again, that’s before the courts,” Nauert said. “I’m not going to address that.”

“That is a Department of Defense issue,” Nauert said. “One of the things that we stand for here at the State Department proudly – and we continue to do so – is the respect for human rights.”

“And that includes the right to love anyone you want, to spend time with anyone that you choose, and we stand firmly behind that and that hasn’t changed,” Nauert said.

On Thursday, State released Pompeo’s statement, as Breitbart News reported:

“The United States stands for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights,” Pompeo said. “Our nation was founded on the bedrock principle that we are all created equal — and that every person is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Around the world, far too many governments continue to arrest and abuse their citizens simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI),” Pompeo said.

“The United States firmly opposes criminalization, violence and serious acts of discrimination such as in housing, employment, and government services, directed against LGBTI persons,” Pompeo said. “We use public and private diplomacy to raise human rights concerns, provide emergency assistance to people at risk, and impose visa restrictions and economic sanctions against those who persecute them.”

Pompeo said the United States “stands with people around the world in affirming the dignity and equality of all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.”

“Human rights are universal, and LGBTI people are entitled to the same respect, freedoms, and protections as everyone else,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo’s statement noted there are 70 countries around the globe that have laws on the books that make sexual identity or certain sexual activity a crime that, in some places, can lead to a death sentence.

The Trump administration also faced criticism on Thursday from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), one of the most vocal pro-LGBTI advocacy groups in the United States.

“Today, HRC marked the observance of the 2018 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) by spotlighting global challenges to LGBTQ equality and calling out the Trump-Pence Administration for turning a blind eye to the oppression and abuse of LGBTQ people around the globe,” HRC said in an article posted on its website Thursday.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.