LGBT rights groups concerned as Trump picks pro-Putin oil exec as Secretary of State

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LGBT rights groups have expressed concern that the US may perform an about-face on the fight for global LGBT equality, as President-elect Trump picks a mega-rich oil magnate to be his Secretary of State.

Despite running on a platform of minimising the influence of lobbyists and special interests, the President-elect confirmed today that Rex Tillerson, the CEO of oil company Exxon Mobil, will serve as his Secretary of State.

The role of Secretary of State is one of the most crucial appointments a President makes, directing the country’s foreign policy and responsible for relations with the rest of the world.

The appointment of Mr Tillerson has raised some concerns, given Exxon’s poor record on equality and diversity under his tenure. The company did not explicitly affirm an LGBT non-discrimination policy until 2014, after repeatedly rejecting proposals previously.

Mr Tillerson also has extremely close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was even awarded the Order of Friendship by the Russian leader.

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination raises critical questions as to how a Trump administration plans to protect LGBTQ employees and contractors affiliated with the State Department, and ultimately whether it will continue American efforts to advance equality through U.S. foreign policy.

“Will Trump and Tillerson take on brutal dictators like Putin who have inspired attacks against LGBTQ people?

“Will they assist LGBTQ Muslim refugees fleeing death from ISIS? For millions of people around the globe, their position on these and other issues are a matter of life and death.

“These are among the questions that Senators – Democrats and Republicans alike – must ask.”

The conservative Christian CEO also headed the Boy Scouts of America in 2010, as the organisation defended its ban on gay members.

The ban was later lifted.

Under President Obama’s two Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, the US has pursued a policy of pursuing reform on LGBT issues around the world. Under President Obama the State Department also introduced a dedicated LGBT rights envoy.