Donald Trump’s nominee to head NASA is likely to create a hostile universe for LGBT people, activists are warning.
Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, has spoken out against marriage equality, opposed opening the Boy Scouts to gay members, and denounced the Obama administration’s guidelines on equal treatment of transgender students, Politico reports.
“It is rather hypocritical to have an individual so entrenched in his idea of ‘traditionalism’ to be nominated to lead an agency that has for almost 60 years pushed to expand our understanding and knowledge,” Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, told Politico. “Rep. Bridenstine doesn’t have that same view. The Senate should block this nomination.”
“The Trump administration has hired unqualified anti-LGBTQ blowhards from day one and shown they are more concerned with furthering attacks on marginalized communities than selecting leaders who will better our country,” added GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
Bridenstine, who has been a Navy aviator and executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, was elected to the U.S. House in 2012 from Oklahoma’s First Congressional District, centered on Tulsa. Trump nominated him for NASA administrator earlier this month; he is subject to confirmation by the Senate, with hearings to be held in that body’s Commerce Committee, which has yet to schedule them. He would be the first politician to run NASA.
He has criticized a string of marriage equality rulings — the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and its ruling for nationwide marriage equality in 2015, plus a 2014 federal appeals court decision striking down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“I believe that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman for life,” he said in a statement on his House website after the 2015 ruling. His online statement on the DOMA decision called it “contrary to millennia of human experience” and cited studies showing that “both a mother and father are essential for raising successful and healthy children” — but, of course, many studies indicate that kids raised by same-sex couples do equally well.
He cosponsored a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and a proposal to impeach Eric Holder, President Obama’s first attorney general, in part because Holder had ceased defending DOMA.
In 2013, as the Boy Scouts of America’s governing body was about to vote on admitting gay youths, Bridenstine gave a speech on the House floor calling liberals intolerant.
“The left’s agenda is not about tolerance, and it’s not about diversity of thought,” Bridenstine said, as the Washington Blade reported at the time. “It’s about presenting a worldview of relativism, where there is no right and wrong, then using the full force of the government to silence opposition and reshape organizations like the Boy Scouts into instruments for social change.”
In 2016, when the Department of Education announced guidelines on how schools should treat transgender students — using their preferred names and pronouns, and allowing them access to the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice — he condemned the move as “lawless federal bullying.”
“We must stand against President Obama’s aggressive attempts to fundamentally transform America,” he said, according to the Tulsa World. “Congress must use the ‘power of the purse’ to combat this executive overreach. Parents and schools should assert their rights to govern themselves and not submit to Obama’s lawless federal bullying.”
Bridenstine has a 0 score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard in his 2015-2016 term. In the previous two-year session of Congress, he scored 30 points out of 100, having made one pro-LGBT move in voting against an amendment that would have removed an antidiscrimination provision from the Violence Against Women Act. And the cherry on top of his record is that he’s frequently filled in for Family Research Council president Tony Perkins as host of the homophobic group’s radio show.
In addition to his anti-LGBT views, concerns have been raised about Bridenstine’s position on climate change, which he believes is not caused by human activity. NASA does much research on climate change.
On the House floor in 2013, he “reeled off this string of climate denial myths,” reports the U.K.’s Guardian: “Global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles. During the Medieval Warm Period from 800 to 1300 A.D. — long before cars, power plants, or the Industrial Revolution — temperatures were warmer than today.”
These are all “baseless,” the paper reports, adding, “As is the case for most politicians who mangle climate science to this degree, Bridenstine’s denial appears rooted in opposition to policy solutions. In a 2016 interview, he argued that climate policies will damage the American economy, and in 2013 he criticized the Obama administration for spending too much on climate science research.”
Just as climate change research is part of NASA’s mission, so is inclusivity, Ellis told Politico. “NASA’s Kennedy Space Center released a LGBTQ Pride month video earlier this year featuring LGBTQ NASA employees as well as allies,” she said. “It is critical for our country’s continued success that NASA employees bring their best selves to work, and that can’t happen when the head of an organization is known first and foremost for being anti-LGBTQ.”