In 2011, the U.S. secretary of state made history when she declared at a United Nations assembly in Geneva that “gay rights are human rights”:
Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
With those words, Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. would join nations around the world that not only condemn discrimination and brutality against LGBTQ people but also put actions behind those words. The Obama administration issued a presidential directive that day that would, among other things, leverage foreign assistance to nations to promote equal treatment of queer people, respond to human rights abuses against LGBTQ people internationally, and protect LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.
Fast-forward to 2018. The man under consideration to be President Donald Trump’s secretary of state ― the man on whose nomination the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote Monday ― has suggested homosexuality is a “perversion” and quite proudly asserted that he doesn’t believe same-sex couples should be treated the same as heterosexual couples.
“Any senator who votes to confirm Mike Pompeo is telling LGBTQ people, Muslims and others they are second-class citizens.”
Pompeo, the current CIA director and a former Republican House member from Kansas who was a staunch tea party insurgent, put out a statement in 2015 calling the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling a “shocking abuse of power.”
That same year, Pompeo spoke at a “God and Country Rally” hosted by an evangelical church in Kansas and read a prayer that had been read on the floor of the Kansas legislature:
America had worshiped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
When Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked during Pompeo’s confirmation hearing last week if he believes homosexuality is a perversion, Pompeo didn’t skip a beat in responding:
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.
We can take that as a yes.
I find it appalling that this man may become our next secretary of state. The duties of such a position include making sure America stands as a beacon of human rights and speaks out against discrimination and hatred around the world ― a world where LGBTQ people are persecuted in many countries. (Trump’s recently fired secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, recognized Pride Month ― unlike Trump himself ― and pushed for the inclusion of gay Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America, which he’d headed in years past.)
This is no longer a debatable issue, and for Pompeo to frame it that way ― as a matter of his opinion ― is like saying that anti-discrimination protections for racial and ethnic minorities, religious groups or women are debatable. We should be well beyond allowing politicians to use religion as an excuse for discrimination against LGBTQ people. And with marriage equality as the law of the land in the United States, there is no place for the nation’s chief diplomat to oppose that right.
“We should be well beyond allowing politicians to use religion as an excuse for discrimination against LGBTQ people.”
Pompeo’s extreme anti-Muslim views, his hard-line anti-choice position, his long-held opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, and other issues have made it a slog for him to get the Foreign Relations Committee recommendation on Monday, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) already having announced his opposition. As historic as that would be, Pompeo could still sail through a confirmation vote. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) this week said she would vote for him, which could embolden other red-state Democrats up for re-election to do the same.
This is stupid politics, since few people elect a senator based on who the candidate did or didn’t vote to confirm to the Cabinet or the federal judiciary. But Democratic leaders are weak compared to GOP leaders when it comes to demanding their caucus stand together.
More than that, this is an affront to LGBTQ people and human rights. Any senator who votes to confirm Mike Pompeo is telling LGBTQ people, Muslims and others they are second-class citizens ― both in the United States and everywhere else.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter @msignorile.