Senate committee approves Trump nominee Mike Pompeo despite homophobia concerns
A Senate committee has approved President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – despite his beliefs about gay people.
Pompeo, who has a long record of anti-LGBT stances as a Republican lawmaker, is Trump’s nominee to replace the outgoing Rex Tillerson as head of the State Department – where he would oversee any future work on global LGBT rights.
The lawmaker attracted anger from LGBT groups earlier this month when he refused to distance himself from his past comments describing gay people as a “perversion,” and has also insisted that he “stands by” his “very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry.”
But despite controversy over his views in a spat with Democratic Senator Cory Booker, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee gave the green light to Pompeo’s nomination yesterday.
The influential committee backed Pompeo by a vote of 11-9, after Republican holdout Rand Paul dropped his opposition to Pompeo.
Anti-LGBT groups had heavily targeted Paul with a lobbying campaign to urge him to back the nominee.
The vote was condemned by LGBT groups, who have warned that his nomination could have a chilling effect on LGBT rights.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “Mike Pompeo’s long-standing opposition to LGBTQ equality and lack of diplomatic experience makes him a poor choice to lead our nation’s diplomatic efforts.
“Senate confirmation of anti-LGBTQ Mike Pompeo could have serious consequences for the United States and LGBTQ people around the globe. The State Department has a crucial role to play in advancing human rights — a role which was already significantly eroding under Rex Tillerson.
“This decision has the potential to make a dire situation even worse. The Senate should reject Pompeo’s nomination.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, added: “The fact that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved someone with ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group that supported Uganda’s efforts to punish and execute LGBTQ people to serve as our nation’s top diplomat is sickening.
“Together we must fight to prevent Mike Pompeo confirmation and ensure that anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism do not become one of our nation’s major exports.”
The nominee’s confirmation by the full Senate is likely to go ahead after three Democrats said they would support his nomination.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat with a poor record on LGBT rights, backed the candidate – alongside Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
All three have been roundly criticised by LGBT activists
Pompeo has a long history of outspoken anti-LGBT sentiment.
As a GOP lawmaker Pompeo was co-sponsor of the State Marriage Defense Act, a proposed law that would have allowed states to continue to refuse recognition of same-sex unions.
He also co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would have issued a ‘license to discriminate’ against LGBT people based on religion.
Defending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which banned openly gay soldiers in the military, he claimed that “when you enter the army you give up a few of your rights,” before claiming: “We cannot use military to promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of our nation.”
When the US Supreme Court found that gay couples had a constitutional right to get married, Pompeo said he was “deeply saddened” by the ruling, branding it a “shocking abuse of power.”
He said: “Creating, out of nowhere, a federal right to marry, flies in the face of centuries of shared understanding of our Constitution.
“It is a shocking abuse of power. It is wrong. I will continue to fight to protect our most sacred institutions; Kansans and our nation deserve no less.”
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By contrast, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had at times been the only senior member of the Trump administration to speak about LGBT rights.
Marking Pride Month, Tillerson said: “In recognition of LGBTI Month, the Department of State affirms its solidarity with the human rights defenders and civil society organisations working around the world to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons to live with dignity and freedom.
“We also recognise that LGBTI persons continue to face the threat of violence and discrimination. Violence and discrimination targeting any vulnerable group undermines our collective security as well as American values.
“When all persons are protected on the basis of equality and with dignity, global stability is strengthened. We will continue to support the human rights of LGBTI persons together with like-minded governments, businesses, and civil society organisations globally.
“The United States remains committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons. Dignity and equality for all persons are among our founding constitutional principles, and these principles continue to drive U.S. diplomacy.”