Trump Administration: Penalizing African Nations for Anti-Gay Laws Is "Religious Persecution"

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, says he "never expected to see [this] as an American Christian."

Mick Mulvaney, Donald Trump's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has actually suggested that the current administration end its practice of penalizing African nations that criminalize homosexuality.

During a speech at last week's State Department Ministerial on International Religious Freedom, Mulvaney, a Republican, equated punishing countries with anti-gay laws on the books to the "religious persecution" of Christians:

Our U.S. taxpayer dollars are used to discourage Christian values in other democratic countries. It was stunning to me that my government under a previous administration would go to folks in sub-Saharan Africa and say, 'We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money.' 'We know you have a law against gay marriage, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.' That is a different type of religious persecution that I never expected to see.

Notably, Mulvaney's claim that the U.S. government punished African countries for having "laws against gay marriage" is a bit of a stretch. Although the Obama administration did threaten to withhold monetary aid from African nations with anti-gay legislation on the books, that reaction was a response to laws that criminalize homosexuality itself and actively land LGBTQ people in jail.

Persecution of LGBTQ Africans under anti-gay laws isn't new. In October 2016, a gay couple in Ivory Coast was imprisoned for three months solely for having sex. As recently as last December, a woman from Tanzania was arrested for kissing another woman in public.

The ramifications of such laws, both culturally and politically, are just as bad. In 2014, a gay Ugandan man was pulled from his home, beaten by an angry mob, and forced to undergo anal probing at a clinic to "prove" he was gay. And in March 2016, former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe revoked his request for $1.6 million of foreign aid when he realized it would come from countries that recognize LGBTQ rights.