There has been a bit of buzz (e.g., here, here, and here) about an amendment that Rep. Barney Frank proposed to a House Financial Services Committee measure regarding aid to countries that physically persecute LGBT persons. Much of what is notable about the amendment is that it actually passed and was tacked onto the larger bill setting budget priorities for the year with regard to, among other things, funding of the Treasury Department and the World Bank.
The text of the amendment reads:
“The Committee urges Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights, for example, the denial of freedom of religion, including the right to choose one’s own religion, and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.“
(The emphasis is mine, for reasons that will soon become clear.) This may be a nice sentiment–and I’m sure that including religion didn’t hurt in getting this sentiment passed out of committee–but that’s about it. The amendment imposes no actual restrictions on aid to these countries and is really no more than hortatory–notice the italicized words “urges” and “advocate.”
Instead of urging “multilateral development institutions” to refrain from funding countries that engage in physical persecution of LGBT persons, wouldn’t it have been better to propose an amendment that prohibits U.S. foreign aid from going to such countries? A quick look at this table from the Census Bureau shows increasing amounts of aid during the 2000s to Uganda, which Rep. Frank cites in his press release as an example of a country where physical persecution of LGBT persons has been occurring. Why aren’t we doing anything about the money that we provide such countries directly?
And why limit our advocacy to just countries that engage in physical persecution of LGBT persons–especially when the mention of religion is not so limited? Or would that make us look too hypocritical given how we treat our own LGBT citizens?