Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo refuses to say whether he thinks being gay is a ‘perversion’

Mike Pompeo

Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was grilled during a confirmation hearing about his outspoken views on homosexuality.

Pompeo, who has a long record of anti-LGBT stances as a lawmaker, is President Trump’s nominee to replace the outgoing Rex Tillerson as head of the State Department.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker challenged Pompeo over his views during a tense confirmation session in the Senate on Thursday, interrogating him over why he previously described being gay is “a perversion.”

Quoting Pompeo’s past comments, Booker said: “You said in a speech … warning an America that endorses a perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle. Those are your words. Is being gay a perversion?”

Pompeo squirmed but ultimately failed to answer the question.

He said: “Senator, when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that.”

Asked if he stands by his beliefs on marriage, Pompeo says: “Senator, I continue to hold that view. It’s the same view.”

Booker pushed: “Do you believe that gay sex is a perversion, yes or no? Yes or no, sir, do you believe gay sex is a perversion? It’s what you said here in one of your speeches. Yes or no, do you believe gay sex is a perversion?”

Pompeo said: “Senator, I’m going to give you the same answer I gave you previously. My respect for every individual regardless of sexual orientation is the same.”

Booker’s questioning earned praise from LGBT activists, who have expressed fears that Pompeo would undermine the work of the State Department on global LGBT rights.

In a break from many Trump officials, Tillerson had broadly maintained the department’s work on LGBT rights under the remit of human rights. He even put out statements marking Pride Month and the Transgender Day of Remembrance – Obama-era traditions outlawed elsewhere in the administration.

LGBT rights groups have warned that the nomination of Pompeo threatens to undermine his work, and could have potential implications for LGBT equality worldwide.

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.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis also warned about the dangers of State being “helmed by someone with an extensive anti-LGBTQ record”.

She said: “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.”

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

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.

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 honours 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.”