WASHINGTON — A tweet from the U.S. Embassy of a rainbow flag-adorned message from President Joe Biden in support of Pride Month drew face-to-face diplomatic protest from Kuwait and sparked a rare Twitter brawl between the two close allies.
On Friday, US diplomats lined up with rainbow flag messages and statements in support of LGBTQ rights on social media. The posts appeared in response to the Kuwaiti government’s official objection the previous day to what the Kuwaiti state news agency called the “pro-gay rights post” of the US embassy there.
“America stands with the LGBTQI+ community everywhere,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a pointed Friday retweet of the original offensive Pride Month post from the embassy.
The dispute began after the US Embassy in Kuwait posted a tweet on Thursday calling Biden a champion of LGBTQI rights. “All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or who they love,” he said.
Late at night, according to the account of the official Kuwait News Agency, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry summoned the embassy’s acting charge d’affaires, James Holtsnider, to “express its rejection of the post”. .
A Foreign Ministry official, Nawaf al Ahmad, handed Holtsnider a written objection “while emphasizing the need for the embassy to abide by the laws and regulations of the country”, according to the Kuwaiti News Agency.
Kuwaiti law punishes consensual same-sex relations between men with up to seven years in prison, according to Human Rights Watch. A court ruling this year overturned another law that made “impersonating the opposite sex” a crime punishable by jail.
Some conservative Kuwaitis have come out in support of their government’s action. The US embassy was “attempting to impose abnormal patterns of behavior rejected by Kuwaiti Muslim society,” one of them, Hamad al Matar, tweeted.
Asked for comment, the State Department said in a statement Friday, “The United States proudly advances efforts around the world to protect all individuals.”
On Friday, the US Embassy in Kuwait’s Twitter account featured the original tweet, in Arabic and English, which sparked the objection, along with a photo of a waving rainbow flag on a blue sky set as the account’s profile picture.
The United States and Kuwait, bound by strategic interests, including regional security, have a long history of largely stable good relations. This includes the United States leading an international army in 1991 to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s invading forces in Iraq.