Sam Brownback, the intensely anti-LGBT Republican who’s been Kansas’s governor and a U.S. senator from the state, has been renominated by Donald Trump as ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
Trump nominated Brownback for the post last year, but since the Senate failed to take action and Senate Democrats refused to allow the nominations to roll over into the new year, he had to be renominated, The Kansas City Star reports. His is one of numerous renominations announced today, several of which are problematic for LGBT people.
Brownback has a long anti-LGBT record, and during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October he refused to answer Sen. Tim Kaine’s question on if there were “any circumstance under which religious freedom can justify criminalizing, imprisoning, or executing somebody based on their LGBT status could be deemed acceptable because somebody asserts they are religiously motivated in doing so,” notes the Human Rights Campaign. HRC and several other groups opposed his confirmation.
As governor of Kansas, Brownback attempted to block marriage equality in the state, even after the U.S. Supreme Court made its ruling for nationwide equality in June 2015. “Brownback’s opposition was so extreme that a federal judge put the state on probation,” wrote Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Kansas affiliate, in an Advocate commentary last August. “Doubting that the state would treat same-sex couples fairly, a federal judge is monitoring every aspect of the state’s implementation of same-sex marriage for the next three years!”
Brownback also rescinded a previous governor’s executive order protecting state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and he issued another order allowing social service organizations with state contracts or grants to discriminate against LGBT and other clients, without repercussions, if the organizations cite religious objections. Further, he signed into law a bill allowing student religious groups to discriminate, even at state-funded schools.
When Brownback talks about religious freedom, Kubic wrote, he does not mean the right to worship freely. “What he really means is that he believes you should have the right to discriminate against other people as long as there is a religious reason for doing so,” Kubic concluded.
As a U.S. senator, he was an original cosponsor of a federal constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, which he called a “social experiment” that would “take the sacredness out of marriage.” He opposed LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes legislation, saying he feared it would keep people from stating their opposition to homosexuality. He supported the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which kept gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops in the closet and in danger of discharge.
With Brownback’s renomination, GLAAD issued a statement today opposing his confirmation. “The idea that the same administration pushing the Muslim ban is seeking to equitably promote religious freedom abroad is absurd. The renomination of Sam Brownback, is yet another example of President Trump using the Oval Office to target vulnerable communities,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Throughout his career, Sam Brownback has felt entitled to impose his anti-LGBTQ ideology on others, citing his faith while rescinding discrimination protections and voting against hate crime legislation. This deeply troubling record must be taken into full account as Brownback is, once again, sent through the nomination process.”
Other problematic nominees on the renomination list include Trump's choice to head NASA, Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma who 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. Renominated for ambassador to the Bahamas is Doug Manchester, a California hotelier who was a major donor to the campaign for Proposition 8, which temporarily rescinded marriage equality in the state. Some anti-LGBT federal judicial nominees also received renominations, including David R. Stras, Stuart Kyle Duncan, and Matthew Kacsmaryk.
And a rare openly gay nominee is Richard Grenell, renominated to be ambassador to Germany. Grenell is a Trump supporter who has an ugly history of insulting liberal women, such as Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow, based on their appearance. If confirmed, he would be ambassador to a country led by a woman, Angela Merkel.