Will Rex Tillerson Fire All LGBT Employees at State Department?

Rex Tillerson

When Rex Tillerson goes before Congress for his confirmation hearing as secretary of State, it’s the first chance to ask whether he plans to fire all LGBT people.

Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, refused to include LGBT people in his company’s anti-discrimination policy until President Obama threatened its revenue. The president signed an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination in hiring and firing by federal contractors. Trump promises to repeal that order.

Now an influential Trump adviser is calling on Tillerson to systemically fire all LGBT people who have pressed the State Department to make the world more welcoming.

“The incoming administration needs to make clear that these liberal policies will be reversed and the ‘activists’ within the State Department promoting them will be ferreted out and will be replaced by conservatives,“ wrote Tony Perkins, who is president of the Family Research Council.

Perkins claims LGBT people have an “extreme agenda” and that “the Obama administration has systematically filled the ranks of State with LGBTQ and abortion activists” who all need to be fired in a move to protect “true human rights, like religious liberty.”

Perkins and the FRC aren’t some outsider voices — even though the Southern Poverty Law Center names the Washington player among its list of anti-LGBT hate groups. Perkins helped draft the Republican Party platform, including notorious sections such as the one defending parents who want to use so-called conversion therapy on their children. The GOP was led at the time by Reince Priebus, who is now Trump’s chief of staff. And Trump said he gave $100,000 to Perkins' church when it faced a tragic flood this year.

The official transition team includes Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow for the FRC, who was selected to oversee domestic policy. And Mandi Ancalle, the group’s general counsel for government affairs, told an audience at the Values Voter Summit that her group is working directly with the Trump transition on defining policies to implement during the first 100 days.

At the time, Ancalle’s list included ideas such as rescinding guidance that lets transgender people live at homeless shelters with people of the same gender. Ancalle reiterated that Obama’s executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors needed to be rescinded. 

The new Perkins purge proposal is reminiscent of times gone by, when LGBT people were called a threat to national security and were systemically fired from their government jobs at the State Department and elsewhere. It was an effect of McCarthyism dubbed the Lavender Scare. 

And in Trump’s nominee for the State Department, Perkins has a potential ally. Tillerson presided as CEO of ExxonMobil when the Human Rights Campaign gave it a negative 25 out of 100 possible points on its Corporate Equality Index. That’s the lowest score ever received by any corporation. In fact, no other company has ever received a negative score. 

Tillerson hasn’t said anything about Perkins’ request. Beyond that proposal, Perkins has a lot of complaints about State Department policies — all of which are potential fodder for Democrats during confirmation hearings.

“The Obama administration has not only sent openly gay ambassadors into countries that are culturally opposed to homosexuality, they’ve used foreign aid to force nations opposed to homosexuality to change their laws to provide special protections for such behavior,” complained Perkins. “And even flown the rainbow flag at U.S. embassies around the world!”

The exclamation point is his own emphasis. Perkins went on, claiming, “I’ve personally heard the concerns from foreign ambassadors and frequently hear from Members of Congress who have received complaints for foreign officials over how the administration has linked foreign aid to the adoption of the State Department’s LGBTQ and pro-abortion agendas.”

The practice Perkins is referring to actually was floated by the United Kingdom and applies to countries that threaten to jail or kill anyone who is LGBT. The World Bank delayed funding to Uganda, for example, when it planned a "kill the gays" bill. It’s fair game then that Democrats would question Tillerson over whether he will support sending foreign aid to countries that enforce the death penalty for LGBT people, especially since President-elect Trump so frequently claimed during the campaign that he is a better ally to LGBT people on the basis that no one should take money from countries like Saudi Arabia. (For the record, Trump said that while taking money from Saudi Arabia himself.)

“Tony Perkins’ proposal to ‘purge’ pro-LGBTQ employees from the State Department is beyond the pale,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Perkins is hatefully suggesting pro-equality, career civil servants be rounded up and sent packing for doing their jobs.  The incoming administration should immediately denounce Perkins’ illegal and vindictive proposal.”

No word from the Trump organization.

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