Having Mike Pence as Vice President hurts LGBT people worldwide

With a known anti-LGBT person being the second-highest ranked U.S. official, where is America's moral authority?

Remember Vice President Mike Pence and his horrid beliefs on LGBT rights issues?

With other notable events taking place in the Trump Administration, Pence's former record as a noted anti-LGBT politician and general conservative cultural crusader has been forgotten.

In general, Pence seemed to be keeping a fairly low profile, until he recently engulfed himself in the North Korea situation. The most significant thing he has been making headlines for was being lied to by Michael Flynn and telling The Hill in 2002 that he never eats alone with a woman who is not his wife.

But whether you are an LGBT Devil or just a Sun Devil, there is something seriously bothersome about Pence’s record at the moment: the U.S.'s moral authority on the world stage in regards to LGBT rights.

Most of ASU's students are part of a new generation that differs from almost all past ones — we are largely accepting of the rights of all LGBT people. But we must look beyond our campus, and we must look beyond the U.S., for we are the generation of college students that could change much of the world's inhumane stance on LGBT rights. 

According to a 2016 report by The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, there are still 73 countries worldwide that criminalize same-sex activity.

While that is down from 92 in 2006, homosexuality and other LGBT issues are still seen in many places worldwide as morally reprehensible. In 13 nations (or certain regions of these nations), same-sex behavior is punishable by death. 

With Pence as vice president, we lose moral leadership on the world stage. How does having a prominent figure in the U.S. government who opposes the rights of LGBT people reflect on our country? How does it influence those nations that criminalize homosexuality?

The past month has seen multiple reports of violence against LGBT people in the Russian Federation Republic of Chechnya. More than 100 gay men are alleged to have been sent to prison camps in the country, where they have been reportedly beaten and some killed.

This week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said she was “disturbed” by the allegations, saying it was a “violation of human rights” and calling for those who performed the actions to be held accountable. Earlier that month the State Department called for Russia to investigate the situation

Pence has said gay couples signaled "societal collapse," has called for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, signed a law allowing discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of religious freedom and opposed LGBT individuals serving in the military, along with several other anti-LGBT proposals.

This isn’t the person you want to have second-in-command if you want to stand up for LGBT rights abroad. 

Maria Sjödin is the deputy executive director of OutRight Action International, an LGBT rights group that works to increase LGBT rights across the world by building relationships with local LGBT communities worldwide.

Sjödin says that while Pence has not directly done anything to work against LGBT rights abroad, she agreed that his anti-LGBT record would likely affect policy in regards to LGBT people, as well as make U.S. lose its moral authority on such issues.

“There's no country on earth that has a perfect record on LGBTIQ rights,” Sjödin said. “But the bigger the discrepancy, the harder it is for a country to have moral authority when it speaks out.”

Sjödin was also quick to point out that even if actions by the Trump Administration do not directly affect LGBT rights internationally, several parts of international policy do. For example, the travel ban on Muslim-majority nations will affect LGBT people as well, as would cutting the number of refugees the U.S. taken in each year.

“LGBT rights are not special rights, they're part of all human rights,” Sjödin said.

Gay rights are human rights. Most ASU students, who are of a more socially conscious generation, know that to be true. But so much of the world stage is going to be very slow to feel the same unless we as Americans can do otherwise.

We must have the moral responsibility to be able to call for equality at the UN podium and pray that all the states of that body listen. Having Pence as vice president is only going make that action even more difficult. 

Reach the columnist at Marinodavidjr@gmail.com or follow @Marinodavidjr on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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