Clay Aiken praises Trump administration over global LGBTQ initiative

Former “American Idol” star and one-time North Carolina congressional candidate Clay Aiken is praising the Trump administration’s new effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of countries around the world.

Aiken told Hill.TV’s “Rising” that President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE’s recently announced global push signals a step in the right direction, saying those on the left and in the LGBTQ community should be “thankful” and “happy” about the new campaign.

“This movement to try to decriminalize homosexuality around the world is overdue,” Aiken told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton.

“Previous administrations have done some work for it, but for the administration to make an active point of trying to at least bring attention to it … is something that people in the LGBTQ community, people on the left side of the aisle should be thankful for and be happy about,” he continued.

Aiken added that just because he disagrees with the administration doesn’t mean he’s going to “shout and argue that what they’re doing in this one instance is something that we should be critical of.”

The Trump administration last week announced that it was launching a campaign to end bans on homosexuality worldwide.

According to a report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 71 countries still criminalize homosexuality and being gay is punishable by death in eight, including in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort. NBC News reported that Grenell kicked off the initiative last week in Berlin and plans to fly LGBTQ activists from across Europe to discuss a strategy for the plan.

But the global campaign has received some criticism from those in the LGBTQ community.

Out Magazine called Trump’s decriminalization campaign, which centers on countries mostly in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean, an “old racist tactic.” The opinion piece said the plan is yet another instance of the right using LGBTQ people as a “pawn to amass power and intact its own agenda.”

“I don’t know what the motivation for the Trump administration is, I don’t know what that article said, but at the end of the day, if something gets done positively, I’m not going to try to stand in the way [of] it with criticism,” Aiken told Hill.TV in reference to the Out post.

Aiken emphasized that so far the Trump administration has yet to taken any concrete steps.

“This president has shown in many places a willingness to speak about certain things and not take action on them," he said. "But until I’ve seen some actual work on that, I’m going to reserve judgment and simply say that I think it’s nice that we’re actually talking about it.” 

A few days after the announcement, Trump appeared unaware about his own administration's plan to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. When asked about the new push by a reporter in the Oval Office, Trump said, "I don't know which report you're talking about — we have many reports." 

The Trump administration’s record on LGBTQ rights at home, meanwhile, is mixed.

During his acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump became the first Republican presidential nominee to mention gay rights.

But since taking office, Trump has rolled back on a number of LGBTQ protections.

In 2018, he asked the Supreme Court to fast-track a ruling that would effectively ban transgender service members.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court granted the Trump administration in January the ability to temporarily enforce restrictions on transgender people serving in the military. But, since one injunction still remains in place, the policy has yet to go into effect.

—Tess Bonn