"President (Robert) Mugabe created the textbook in Zimbabwe for scapegoating the LGBT community for distracting attention from corrupt elections and difficult economic times," Bromley said, referring to a campaign in that southern African nation over the past decade.
Laws criminalizing homosexuality have led the U.S. and British governments to threaten economic assistance to Malawi, Ghana and Uganda in Africa.
"It does translate into dollars and cents," Bromley said, referring to the economic assistance, but "conditionality really is not the main tool in the tool kit."
He said a greater emphasis on providing training and funding to gay rights groups operating in difficult environments, such as Russia, has the potential for lasting impact, while U.S. diplomats bring up gay rights as part of broader human rights discussions.
Bromley said persistent discussions on the matter "can be slow and, at times, tedious, but over the long term they do have impact."
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