U.S. Sen. Cory Booker grilled secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo about his views on LGBT rights today, with Pompeo saying he still opposes marriage equality and refusing to say if he thinks gay sex is a perversion.
Pompeo appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as part of his confirmation process. Donald Trump nominated Pompeo, who has a long anti-LGBT record, to replace the fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of State. Pompeo has been CIA director and was previously a congressman from Kansas.
“You’ve said in a speech … ‘mourning an America that endorses perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle,’” said Booker, a New Jersey Democrat. “Those are your words. Is being gay a perversion?”
“Senator, when I was a politician I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex people to marry,” Pompeo responded. “I stand by that.” His view was one of opposition.
“And so people in the State Department, I met some, in Africa, that are married under your leadership -- you do not think that should be allowed,” Booker continued. Pompeo replied that he thinks there are married gay couples at the CIA, and he treats them the same as everyone else.
Booker then pressed Pompeo for a yes or no answer on whether he considers gay sex a perversion, and after some back-and-forth, Pompeo said, “I'm going to give you the same answer I just gave you previously. My respect for every individual regardless of the sexual orientation is the same and will remain so if I’m confirmed.”
Earlier, Booker had quizzed Pompeo on statements he’d made about American Muslim leaders being “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks if they do not speak out against them. Booker asked if Muslims had a special obligation to speak out, and Pompeo said every American has an obligation, but Muslims may be “better positioned” to do so.
Booker also challenged the nominee about a comment on people who worship “other gods.” He asked if Pompeo thinks that’s something negative, and Pompeo asserted that his record showed he treats people of “each and every faith with the dignity they deserve.”
Booker wasn’t satisfied with Pompeo’s answers. At the end of his questioning, he said, “So I will conclude by saying, sir, you're going to be secretary [of State] of the United States in a time where we have in increase in hate speech, hate action against Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Indian-Americans. Hate acts are on the increase in our nation. You're gonna be representing this country and their values abroad in nations where gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence. Your views do matter. You’re going to be dealing with Muslim states on Muslim issues. I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forth the values of our nation when you can’t even, when you believe that there are people in our country that are perverse and where you think that you create different categories of Americans and their obligations when it comes to condemning violence.”
Another Democrat, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, had also pressed Pompeo on his views about Muslims and LGBT people. “During your tenure in Congress you have made statements that have been described as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT rights, so how would you as secretary of State reconcile those positions and statements that you have taken in Congress with the need to represent America’s values and defend human rights?” she said. Pompeo said, ”Look at my record,” contending that as CIA director he had never discriminated on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.
LGBT activist grou[ GLAAD didn’t think much of Pompeo’s performance. “Mike Pompeo's reaffirmed opposition to marriage equality and LGBTQ rights further proves that he is dangerously wrong to serve as our nation’s chief diplomat,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a press release. “His personal ties to anti-LGBTQ hate groups [such as the Family Research Council] and clear refusal to support the hard-fought equal rights of the LGBTQ community make him wholly unqualified to promote human rights abroad.”
Watch Booker’s questioning of Pompeo below.
— GLAAD (@glaad) April 12, 2018