Metro Weekly

Trump to tap Montana congressman as Secretary of Interior

Rep. Ryan Zinke is your standard-issue Republican when it comes to issues of equality

Ryan Zinke - Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Ryan Zinke – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Trump Cabinet, Cabinet-Level Nominee and Adviser Threat Gauge

Name: Ryan Zinke

Position: Secretary of the Interior

LGBT record: When he ran against out lesbian Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau in 2016, Zinke made comments that implied he believes sexual orientation is a choice. He voted for the anti-LGBT Russell Amendment that was added to the defense authorization bill, which would have undermined protections for LGBT federal contractors. 

Threat Level: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 — Raging Inferno

In a surprise move, President-elect Donald Trump has tapped U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke as his pick to head the Department of the Interior. Initially, the Trump transition team had indicated it was looking at U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), but reversed course earlier this week.

As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke, a Navy SEAL veteran, will be tasked with overseeing energy exploration on public lands and waters. Trump has indicated he is highly in favor of fossil fuel extraction, supporting both fracking for natural gas and drilling for oil. Zinke has previously said that he does not believe human-caused climate change is a hoax, but also that it’s “not proven science.” According to The New York Timeshe is in favor of keeping the nation’s public lands in federal hands, and has voted in favor of maintaining the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

On LGBT rights issues, Zinke is a fairly standard-issue Republican, opposing an expansion of LGBT rights and expressing support for “religious freedom” measures like the Russell Amendment, which would allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT people in hiring. He earned a zero percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign on its congressional scorecard.

When running for re-election in 2016, Zinke faced off against Democrat Denise Juneau, the state’s superintendent of public instruction and an out lesbian. During one of their debates, when asked a question about LGBT rights, Zinke told Juneau he didn’t mind “if you want to be a lesbian,” seemingly implying that he believes that sexual orientation is a choice. When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide in 2015, Zinke criticized the ruling for violating religious freedom and undermining state’s ability to define marriage as they see fit. 

Under Zinke’s predecessor, Sally Jewell, the National Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of Interior, has pushed for greater representation among the nation’s historical sites of minority communities, including the LGBT community. As part of that initiative, the National Park Service has sought out historical sites of significance that might be candidates for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or being named National Historic Landmarks. The open question remains how supportive a Trump administration will be of such initiatives, particularly with Zinke in charge. The confirmation of Zinke is not expected to affect the status of the Stonewall Inn, which was officially designated by President Obama as a the nation’s first monument dedicated to the LGBT community in June.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com