How Trump and the Christian Right Saved LGBTI Human Rights

A Religious Freedom Mystery

By Cynthia Burack

Subjects: Political Science, Human Rights, Religion And Politics, Queer Studies
Series: SUNY series in Queer Politics and Cultures
Hardcover : 9781438488837, 258 pages, August 2022
Paperback : 9781438488820, 258 pages, February 2023

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Table of contents


Introduction: Setting the Table for SOGI Human Rights
From Obama to Trump
SOGI Yesterday
The Players
Defining My Terms
A Map of the Book

1. The Christian Right as Anti-SOGI Interest Group
Losing in the US and Looking Abroad
SOGI Human Rights vs. Religious Freedom
What Lies Beneath
The Wages of Spin

2. His Christian Conservatives
Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, 2018
Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, 2019
Commission on Unalienable Rights, Part 1
The 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast
Commission on Unalienable Rights, Part 2

3. The Human Rights of Tillerson and Pompeo: Who Was Minding the SOGI Store?
Straight Talks
Secretary Tillerson
Secretary Pompeo
Different Blokes for Different Folks

4. On the Trail of SOGI in the Time of Trump
SOGI Supply
Public Diplomacy
Foreign Assistance
And Yet SOGI Persists

5. The US Abroad on SOGI Human Rights in the Time of Trump
SOGI Demand
Good Enough Queers

Conclusion: More Thoughts Than Prayers
On Not Even Trying
On Knowing Your Audience

Appendix A: Secretary Rex Tillerson, "Remarks to US Department of State Employees"

Appendix B: Secretary Mike Pompeo, "Being a Christian Leader"


Traces the Trump administration's surprising support for LGBTI human rights abroad to Trump's indifference and the cynicism and political interests of Christian conservative elites.


During the Obama administration, Christian conservatives insisted that securing human rights for LGBTI people abroad diminished human rights protections for people of faith. During the 2016 presidential election, the Christian right backed Donald Trump and demanded an end to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) foreign policy. Did the Trump administration move to terminate US advocacy for SOGI human rights? Did Christian conservative US officials and elites do everything in their power to publicize, curb, defund, and undermine US support for SOGI? If not—spoiler alert: they did not—why not? Analyzing SOGI human rights and religious freedom foreign policy, How Trump and the Christian Right Saved LGBTI Human Rights reveals the indifference, mendacity, and political interests at play in Trump's alliance with Christian right elites.

Cynthia Burack is Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Ohio State University. Her many books include Because We Are Human: Contesting US Support for Gender and Sexuality Human Rights Abroad, also published by SUNY Press.


"Burack's insight into the Christian conservative takeover of the Republican party, in state legislatures and presidencies, is profoundly disturbing. Trump made this takeover easier yet since one thing and one thing only defined who he considered qualified for top-level policy and cabinet positions: loyalty. Christian conservatives played that card easily and 'for the higher purposes' of carrying out God's plan on earth. More frightening is the belief that transforming our democracy into a theocracy is not enough. The 'end time' when believers will meet their savior must be global. The infiltration of international human rights policy by Christian conservative moral entrepreneurs is an essential, perhaps final, move—yet one that never materialized. This book methodically investigates the mystery of how and why US SOGI rights support survived under the Trump administration." — Franke Wilmer, author of Breaking Cycles of Violence in Israel and Palestine: Empathy and Peacemaking in the Middle East