According to Politico, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he brings up LGBTQI rights with his Saudi counterpart “invariably, in every conversation,” but defends President Joe Biden’s planned July visit to the kingdom — where homosexual acts carry the death penalty. “There are a lot of different things” that constitute America’s interests in the country, Blinken said.
Speaking at the State Department’s first-ever briefing for LGBTQI reporters, Blinken told POLITICO that “we have real engagement” with Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud when he raises his LGBTQI-themed complaints.
But he said human rights are only one part of America’s foreign policy and “everything has to be reflected in what we do.” It’s hardly the concerted effort to treat the Saudis “like the pariah they are” that Biden promised as a candidate, but Blinken insists that was never the administration’s plan.
“We were determined from day one to recalibrate the relationship: not rupture, recalibrate,” he said. It’s a delicate juggling act for a pro-LGBTQI administration.
The State Department says it has provided financial assistance to around 10,000 LGBTQI human rights defenders via its Global Equality Fund. But in pursuing what Blinken called a “first do no harm” approach to attacks on LGBTQI communities globally, the administration is also vulnerable to criticism that it acts too slowly or quietly in defending those under siege.
That group includes Brittney Griner, the out American basketball player whose imprisonment in Russia on drug smuggling charges has been extended until July 2.
Blinken has now classified Griner as “wrongfully detained” — after a two-month legal process. Her case is part of a broader trend of American citizens being used as political pawns by autocratic regimes.
Asked if foreign leaders point out that LGBTQI rights are under attack in states across America, Blinken admitted, “I, not infrequently, get that response.”