WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Embassy tweet of a rainbow-flag-festooned message by President Joe Biden in support of Pride Month has drawn a face-to-face diplomatic protest from Kuwait and sparked a rare Twitter fight between the two close allies.
On Friday, U.S. diplomats were doubling down with rainbow flag postings and statements in support of LGBTQ rights on social media. The messages appeared in response to the Kuwaiti government’s official objection the day before to what Kuwait’s state news agency called the “pro-gay rights post” of the U.S. Embassy there.
“The United States stands with the LGBTQI+ community everywhere around the world,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a pointed retweet Friday of the embassy’s original offending Pride Month message.
The dispute began after the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait posted a tweet Thursday that called 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 whom they love,” it said.
Late that night, according to the account on Kuwait’s state news agency, Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry summoned acting embassy charge d’affaires James Holtsnider to “express its rejection of the post.”
A Foreign Ministry official, Nawaf al Ahmad, handed Holtsnider a written objection “as well as stressing necessity for the embassy to respect the country’s laws and regulations,” according to the Kuwaiti news agency.
Kuwaiti law punishes consensual same-sex relations between men by up to seven years in prison, according to Human Rights Watch. A court ruling this year threw out another law that made “imitating the opposite sex” a crime punishable by prison.
Some conservative Kuwaitis spoke out in support of their government’s action. The U.S. Embassy was “attempting to impose modes of abnormal behavior rejected by the Muslim Kuwaiti society,” tweeted one, Hamad al Matar.
Asked for comment, the State Department said in a statement Friday, “The United States proudly advances efforts around the globe to protect all individuals.”
On Friday, the Kuwait U.S. Embassy’s Twitter account featured the original tweet, in Arabic and English, that drew the objection, as well as a photo of a rippling rainbow flag against a blue sky set as the account’s profile photo.
The U.S. and Kuwait, bound by strategic interests including regional security, have a long history of largely steady good relations. That includes the U.S. leading a 1991 international army to liberate Kuwait from invading forces of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.