I am constantly on the lookout for signs that attitudes are moving in more positive directions and in the last week I came across two. One is that the Trump administration is starting a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality.
The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it’s still illegal to be gay, U.S. officials tell NBC News, a bid aimed in part at denouncing Iran over its human rights record.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin. The U.S. embassy is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to plan to push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality — mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.
“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” said a U.S. official involved in organizing the event.
It is true that the Trump administration’s motives may be mixed and largely driven by trying to separate Iran from Europe but it is a good move nonetheless. What will they do about Saudi Arabia and the many other Islamic countries where homosexuality carries the death penalty but are US allies?
Another good sign is that some of the most conservative and Republican states are moving to abolish the death penalty
In Wyoming, the state House passed a bill Friday to end capital punishment. In Virginia, the state Senate voted to bar the death penalty for those with serious mental illnesses. And in Kentucky, state House Majority Whip Chad McCoy (R) has introduced his own bill to stop executions.
Republicans who back the push to end capital punishment said they view the practice as immoral, ineffective — and costly.
“When you talk about death penalty, a lot of people immediately want to have a criminal justice angle on it or a morality angle. And mine is purely economics,” McCoy said in an interview.
Those on death row “have cost us an inordinate amount of money, and if we just went with life without parole, we would save the state millions and millions of dollars,” he added.
Even in Republican-controlled Ohio, which has long been a death penalty friendly state, there was a new development today as the governor indefinitely halted all executions until the state finds a way to make its system, which has seen some horrendous executions, constitutional and more acceptable. His choice of words suggested that he seems to have developed reservations about the whole thing.
Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that there will be no more executions in Ohio until a new method of carrying them out can be developed and deemed constitutional by the courts.
“As long as the status quo remains, where we don’t have a protocol that has been found to be OK, we certainly cannot have any executions in Ohio,” DeWine told reporters at an Associated Press forum in Columbus. “That would not be right, at least in my opinion.”
Pressed on whether he personally supports the death penalty, DeWine paused. Seeming to choose his words carefully, he then said he was a sponsor of Ohio’s current capital punishment law, which took effect in 1981.
“It is the law of the state of Ohio. And I’ll let it go [not comment further] at this point. We are seeing clearly some challenges that you have all reported on in regard to carrying out the death penalty. But I’m not going to go further down that path any more today,” he said.
Again the motives are not entirely noble but as long as they push us to end this barbaric practice, that is a good thing.