Lawmakers urged to block Trump’s anti-LGBT Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo

Senators have been urged to block President Donald Trump’s anti-LGBT nominee for Secretary of State.

The outgoing head of the State Department Rex Tillerson had maintained some of the work on global LGBT rights that had begun under the Obama administration.

While other federal government departments worked to undermine civil rights protections, Secretary Tillerson struck a conciliatory tone and issued statements to mark Pride Month and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, continuing commitments to basic LGBT rights.

But Trump recently nominated former Republican lawmaker Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson – and LGBT rights groups are concerned about his extensive anti-LGBT record.

Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As a GOP lawmaker Pompeo was co-sponsor of the State Marriage Defense Act, a proposed law that would have allowed states to continue to refuse recognition of same-sex unions.

He also co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would have issued a ‘license to discriminate’ against LGBT people based on religion.

LGBT rights groups this week urged senators to block the nomination of Pompeo, because of the potential implications of his appointment on LGBT equality.

The Human Rights Campaign, Global Forum on MSM & HIV, National LGBTQ Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality all signed a joint letter from rights groups expressing “serious doubts about his ability to represent all in America and promote human rights for all individuals abroad.”

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “Mike Pompeo’s record demonstrates a grave threat to the safety and dignity of women, LGBTQ people, and Muslims. His time in Congress was spent fighting to dismantle crucial reproductive healthcare access.

“He opposed the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and sought to block non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. He called the landmark Obergefell decision an ‘abuse of power.’

“He has a history of disturbing Islamophobic comments. We urge the Senate to oppose Pompeo and reject this effort by Donald Trump and Mike Pence to appoint an extremist as our nation’s chief diplomat.”

Mike Pompeo (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The letter cites his history of outspoken comments about Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

It adds: “Mr. Pompeo also has a history of marginalizing other vulnerable populations. For example, long after the repeal of the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy barring LGBTQ people from military service, he continued to argue for their exclusion, and he characterized the 2015 Supreme Court ruling establishing marriage equality as a ‘shocking abuse of power.’

“He has repeatedly voted to restrict women’s access to vital reproductive health care both in the United States and abroad. As a member of Congress, he voted to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even though the organization can by law only use federal funds for services such as cancer screenings and birth control and is the largest provider of contraception for low-income women.”

The letter adds: “More recently, Mr. Pompeo’s reported hostility toward CIA diversity and inclusion initiatives raises serious concerns about his commitment and ability to lead the Department of State’s diverse, multinational workforce.

“The Secretary of State is one of our most important positions for promoting and protecting human rights. This cabinet level position has a unique and important role requiring the ability to build international coalitions and serve as our representative in international negotiations.

“Mr. Pompeo’s documented anti-Muslim bias is dangerous to American foreign policy, will cripple his ability to develop essential relationships with Muslim-majority countries, and will irreparably undermine his ability to lead the State Department workforce.

“In light of Mr. Pompeo’s divisive and extreme record, we urge you to oppose his confirmation. Thank you for your consideration of our views.”

Mike Pompeo (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pompeo has a long history of outspoken anti-LGBT sentiment.

Defending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which banned openly gay soldiers in the military, he claimed that “when you enter the army you give up a few of your rights,” before claiming: “We cannot use military to promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of our nation.”

When the US Supreme Court found that gay couples had a constitutional right to get married, Pompeo said he was “deeply saddened” by the ruling, branding it a “shocking abuse of power.”

He said: “Creating, out of nowhere, a federal right to marry, flies in the face of centuries of shared understanding of our Constitution.

“It is a shocking abuse of power. It is wrong. I will continue to fight to protect our most sacred institutions; Kansans and our nation deserve no less.”

By contrast, Tillerson had at times been the only senior member of the Trump administration to speak about LGBT rights.

Secrertary of State Rex Tillerson with Donald Trump (Getty)

Marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, Tillerson said:” The United States honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who have lost their lives to acts of violence.

“Transgender individuals and their advocates, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex persons, are facing increasing physical attacks and arbitrary arrests in many parts of the world. Often these attacks are perpetrated by government officials, undermining the rule of law.

“Transgender persons should not be subjected to violence or discrimination, and the human rights they share with all persons should be respected.

“On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States remains committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons. These principles are inherent in our own Constitution and drive the diplomacy of the United States.”

Marking Pride Month, Tillerson said: “In recognition of LGBTI Month, the Department of State affirms its solidarity with the human rights defenders and civil society organisations working around the world to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons to live with dignity and freedom.

“We also recognise that LGBTI persons continue to face the threat of violence and discrimination. Violence and discrimination targeting any vulnerable group undermines our collective security as well as American values.

“When all persons are protected on the basis of equality and with dignity, global stability is strengthened. We will continue to support the human rights of LGBTI persons together with like-minded governments, businesses, and civil society organisations globally.

“The United States remains committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons. Dignity and equality for all persons are among our founding constitutional principles, and these principles continue to drive U.S. diplomacy.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said: “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 US State Department.”