Trump’s anti-LGBT Education Secretary confirmed as Mike Pence breaks Senate tie
Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been confirmed despite allegations she lied to the Senate on LGBT rights – after Vice President Mike Pence intervened to break a deadlocked vote.
Betsy DeVos, the mega-rich daughter of billionaire Prince Corporation founder Edgar Prince and daughter-in-law of Amway billionaire Dick DeVos, is Trump’s pick for Education Secretary despite having no experience in education.
She has faced a bitterly contested confirmation battle over her lack of policy knowledge and her radical views opposing public education. DeVos also faced accusations of lying during her confirmation hearing – after claiming her 13 years as VP of a charitable trust that funded anti-gay activism was a “clerical error”.
The Senate was tied 50-50 in a vote to confirm DeVos today, with all 48 Democrats opposing her confirmation along with Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
But Vice President Mike Pence exercised his executive power as President of the Senate to break the tie, allowing DeVos to take up her role in the Trump administration.
Pence said: “Today’s vote to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a vote for every child having a chance at a world-class education.”
However, LGBT activists continue to harbour extreme concerns about her record and policies.
During her confirmation hearing DeVos denied having any authority within her family’s Prince Foundation, which gave more than $10 million sent Focus On the Family, a Christian group that advocates gay ‘cure’ therapy.
Pushed in the hearing, she had insisted a statement listing her as the foundation’s vice president was “a clerical error”.
When Senator Maggie Hassan asked her to clarify whether “the listing that you were vice president was incorrect”, Mrs DeVos replied: “That is correct.”
The Intercept later alleged that she directly “lied to the Senate”, revealing that Prince Foundation tax filings show she was listed as vice president of the foundation for 13 years, dating from 2001 to 2013.
The Washington Post also confirmed a long paper trail documenting DeVos’s involvement in the foundation, while only last month the organization filed a “certificate of correction” to remove her name from its official papers.
In addition to its funding for Focus in the Family, the Prince Foundation also poured $6.1 million into Family Research Council, which is listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Other groups linked to DeVos’ family have previously donated $200,000 in a successful bid to add an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Michigan ballot, and at least $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage.
In one confirmation hearing exchange DeVos denied believing in conversion therapy.
She insisted: “I’ve never believed in that… first of all, let me say I fully embrace equality and I believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination.
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“Let’s start there and let me just say that your characterization of our contributions, I don’t think accurately reflects those of my family. I would hope you wouldn’t include other family members beyond my core family.”
Challenged on equality and non-discrimination, she said: “I embrace equality, and I firmly believe in the intrinsic value of each individual, and that every student should have the assurance of a safe and discrimination-free place to become educated.
“I want to restate those principles of values for me. Let me comment to the things you have referred to again and suggested that you may be confusing some other family members in some of those contributions… as a mom, I just can’t imagine having a child that would feel discriminated against for any reason, and I would want my child in a safe environment.”
Despite her history of donations to anti-LGBT causes, DeVos received support from the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans.
They insisted: “Ms. DeVos has been maligned in the media as an “anti-gay” activist—allegations directly stemming from her personal views on marriage and contributions from her family foundation. Far from an ‘anti-gay’ firebreather, Ms. DeVos actually has a history of working with and supporting gay individuals.”
The group added: “Ms. DeVos should be commended for proving that differences of opinion related to marriage equality do not equate to anti-gay animus. Log Cabin Republicans stands in support of her nomination for Secretary of Education, and encourages her swift confirmation.”