Trump Will Have His Hands Full Fixing Social Extremism in the State Department

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Stream on January 4, 2017.

It may be a new year, but there’s nothing new about the concerns surrounding the State Department’s liberal activism. While Americans were busy unwrapping presents, conservatives were tearing into something else: Obama’s record on social issues. After eight years of watching the State Department operate as a global base for abortion and sexual activism, most Republicans are ready to get back to the real business of diplomacy. That’s a tough job under normal circumstances, but after two terms of President Obama, the Trump team will have its hands full.

Lately, there have been some who have suggested that (after almost a decade of proving otherwise) the State Department has nothing to do with abortion and sexual politics. Tell that to our friends around the globe, who’ve spent the last eight years trying to dodge this administration’s biggest export: rainbow flags and abortion dollars. Under President Obama, this radical agenda has completely infiltrated the State Department — usually eclipsing the agency’s other vital functions, like defending religious liberty. Obviously, America has a sincere interest in stopping the unjust persecution or targeting of any human being. But what’s happened for the last eight years is not the simple defense of those who are mistreated — it’s the elevation of people around the world based on sexual behavior.

State’s Culture of Extremism: LGBT Issues

While some people are falling for the line that social issues are “irrelevant” to the work of the State Department, the Trump team isn’t buying it. They’re keenly aware of the culture of extremism at the agency — so much so that they’ve requested a detailed list of the ways the office has tried to promote “gender equality.” Late last month, the New York Times reported on the Trump memo, which asked the department to provide, among other things, details on the positions “‘whose primary functions are to promote such issues’ — as well as how much funding was directed to gender-related programs in 2016.”

The State Department’s report should be an easy one. After all, the White House has graciously done the work for them, boasting in great detail about the “gains” it’s made for the global LGBT community on its website (many courtesy of the agency that supposedly has no dealings in social issues). Here are a few of the highlights (and some the administration conveniently forgot):

  • Created a “Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons” at the State Department. When announcing the position, Secretary Kerry said: “Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally.”
  • Funded LGBT advocacy around the world through the State Department through an entity called the Global Equality Fund. “The Department of State continues to grow the Global Equality Fund, a multi-sector public-private partnership to advance the human rights of LGBT persons globally. Since the Fund was launched in December 2011, it has allocated over $30 million to civil society organizations in 80 countries worldwide.”
  • Used the United Nations to push LGBT issues. “In 2011, we proudly partnered with South Africa to ensure passage of the first-ever U.N. resolution on the human rights of LGBTI persons, adopted by the Council.”
  • Flew the rainbow flag at U.S. embassies around the world, despite host countries’ complaints, concerns and religious volatilities.
  • Appointed ambassadors who openly identify as gay or transgender in defiance of other countries’ values and traditions. As John Kerry said in 2014, “I’m working hard to ensure that by the end of my tenure, we will have lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ambassadors in our ranks as well…”
  • Marked International Human Rights Day with a controversial Geneva speech insisting that “[G]ay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
  • Ordered the publication of overseas op-eds hostile to other countries’ views on sexuality to celebrate LGBT “pride.”
  • Made transgender issues a key negotiating point with other nations at the expense of diplomatic relations. “We have instructed our human rights and health officers to raise transgender issues in their host countries, and we have encouraged our public affairs officers to include the needs of transgender groups in their programming, so that we are showing that this is something that we’re going to engage in…”
  • Strong-armed other countries to accept America’s misguided policies on same-sex spouses. “Let me be clear,” Kerry lectured in a defiant speech, “we oppose any effort by any country to deny visas for spouses of American staff. It’s discriminatory, it’s unacceptable, it has no place in the 21st century.”
  • Revised the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual to allow same-sex couples to obtain passports under the names recognized by their state through their marriages or civil unions.

State’s Culture of Extremism: Abortion

And it’s not just sexual liberalism that’s poisoning the international well. The State Department has loudly promoted overseas abortion policy and been quick to put taxpayer funds and resources behind it — regardless of other countries’ deeply-held beliefs.

  • Illegally funneled millions of dollars to efforts aimed at legalizing abortion in Kenya, despite the Siljander Amendment, which bans the government from lobbying for or against abortion overseas with taxpayer dollars.
  • Used the access gained at the State Department to lobby for abortion-on-demand at the U.N.’s 4th Conference on Women in China. Clinton told the audience, “It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families.”

In my own personal interactions with ambassadors, especially when FRC was helping to negotiate for Mariam Ibrahim’s release from a Sudanese prison, they all shared the same concern: that the State Department’s obsession with social issues had come at the expense of religious liberty. If Donald Trump is going to make our First Freedom a priority, as he’s pledged to do, he’ll have to start by rolling back the extremist culture at State. Is that impossible? Not at all. But having the right people around him will make all the difference.