The State Department, already no friend to LGBT people as part of the Trump administration, promises to get even worse under new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo, who was named secretary-designate today by Donald Trump after the president fired Rex Tillerson, has a long and strong anti-LGBT record.
Pompeo, previously the Trump administration’s CIA director, was beginning his fourth term as a U.S. House member from Kansas when he assumed that position. In the House, cosponsored the State Marriage Defense Act, which attempted to slow the spread of marriage equality, and the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, a precursor to the current First Amendment Defense Act, which is essentially “license to discriminate” legislation. He also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act when the domestic violence law’s language was expanded to explicitly include same-sex couples. In his three full terms in the House, he garnered two zeroes and a 30, out of a possible 100, on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.
He called the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality decision "a shocking abuse of power" that "flies in the face of centuries of shared understanding of our Constitution," according to research compiled by GLAAD. He called earlier pro-equality rulings, gutting the Defense of Marriage Act and striking down California’s Proposition 8, "both sad and counter to the most profound tradition of our great nation."
In 2014, in an appearance at Kansas State University, he voiced his opposition to marriage equality and said, "I think as you look back at civilization, look back at history, you find the strength of these families having a father and a mother is the ideal condition for childbearing. Doesn't mean there aren't great families with single parents, great young men and women raised without either parent. If you're asking for what is ideal, I think it's being raised by a man and a woman."
Even though “don’t ask, don’t tell” had been repealed by the time he joined Congress in 2011, he continued to speak out against open service by lesbian, gay, and bisexual military members. “We cannot use military to promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of our nation,” he said at the 2011 Values Voter Summit, a right-wing gathering.
Pompeo has embraced other far-right views as well. He is deeply opposed to abortion rights, and he has made anti-Muslim statements. After the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, he said “deafening” silence from American Muslim leaders made them “potentially complicit” in terrorist acts, when in fact many of them had condemned the bombing. In his 2010 run for Congress, his campaign sent a tweet calling his opponent, an Indian-American, a “turban topper” who “could be a muslim, a hindu, a buddhist etc who knows.” Campaign staff later apologized.
As CIA director, he consulted with the Family Research Council, according to GLAAD. The FRC, headed by Tony Perkins, is designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has also frequently appeared on Perkins’s Washington Watch radio program.
Perkins today released a statement praising Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of State, saying, "President Trump has been an agent of change in Washington. It is hard to identify another federal agency that is in more need of change than the State Department, which has historically and consistently been at cross purposes with American values and principles. Mike Pompeo is a proven leader, and I am very confident that he will be the desperately needed agent of change at State."
Also at the CIA, Pompeo last year canceled an event at which Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard, were scheduled to speak about diversity and LGBT rights. “The schedule was set, and the details arranged, but in the 11th hour, the senior leadership shut down the event,” Foreign Policy reported in September. “The seventh floor, where the director’s office sits, had the Shepards’ speech canceled, questioning what value it would bring to the CIA mission.”
Last year Pompeo, a Harvard Law School graduate, strongly objected to Harvard’s appointment of leaker Chelsea Manning, who is transgender, as a visiting fellow at its John F. Kennedy School of Government. Pompeo’s comments did not focus on her identity but rather on the fact that she had sent classified documents to WikiLeaks while serving in the U.S. Army, saying, “Harvard’s actions implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law. … I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.” Manning’s appointment was rescinded.
LGBT rights leaders, for their part, have strongly objected to Pompeo’s appointment as secretary of State, which is subject to Senate confirmation. “Mike Pompeo’s longstanding opposition to LGBTQ equality makes him a reckless choice to lead our nation’s diplomatic efforts,” said a statement from HRC president Chad Griffin. “The decision to nominate 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 rapidly declining under Tillerson. This decision has the potential to make a dire situation even worse. Pompeo does not deserve to be confirmed.”
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis added this statement: "We have already seen a State Department under President Trump that has stayed silent and refused to take necessary steps to combat and condemn the growing epidemic of anti-LGBTQ violence around the world, and now that department will be helmed by someone with an extensive anti-LGBTQ record. During his time in the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo has personally consulted with Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that supported Uganda's efforts to punish and execute LGBTQ people. This extremism should have no place in the U.S. State Department."