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CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next Secretary of State, was lambasted for his views on homosexuality during his confirmation hearing on Thursday.
Appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Pompeo found himself repeatedly criticized by Democrats for past statements he made as a Congressman from Kansas that seemed denigrating Islam and Muslims and expressed hostility towards homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
When it was Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) turn to question Pompeo, he asked about a speech that Pompeo had given as a congressman that he and other conservatives were “mourning an America that endorses perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle.”
Pompeo attempted to cast the comments as speaking to his sincerely held belief that two people of the same sex should not marry, but also attempted to saythat he has treated LGBTQ employees who are married fairly during his time CIA director. Booker cut him off, asking: “You believe gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no?”
The two men engaged in a brief exchange, interrupting each other, before Pompeo replied: “I’m going to give you the same answer I just gave you previously. My respect for every individual regardless of the sexual orientation is the same and will remain so if I’m confirmed.”
Booker responded, saying he was concerned about Pompeo’s inability to represent the United States’ view on human rights. He also expressed concern over comments Pompeo made after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that Muslim-Americans who failed to condemn the attack were “potentially complicit,” and over Pompeo’s ties to major figures with a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“You’re going to be representing this country and their values abroad in nations where gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence,” Booker said. “Your views do matter. … I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forth the values of our nation when you can’t even, when you believe that there are people in our country that are perverse and where you think that you create different categories of Americans and their obligations when it comes to condemning violence.”
Earlier in the hearing, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) raised similar concerns over Pompeo’s views on Muslims and LGBTQ people, asking how he would reconcile his personal beliefs and past political positions with “the need to represent America’s values and defend human rights.”
In response, Pompeo told Shaheen to look at his record, which includes promoting people within the CIA based on merit, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation.
A coalition of 55 civil and human rights groups recently penned a letter to U.S. senators asking them not to confirm Pompeo because of concerns that he would be unwilling or unable to effectively stand up for American values, including respect for the lives and dignity of LGBTQ individuals.
The national LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD blasted Pompeo for failing to address his ties to the Family Research Council, which has backed efforts to curb the rights of LGBTQ people across the world. FRC previously supported efforts by lawmakers in Uganda to pass a measure that equal rights dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill, which would punish — and potentially even execute — those found guilty of engaging in same-sex behavior, in violation of the country’s laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Besides FRC’s support for Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, the organization has also supported upholding Texas’ anti-sodomy laws, lobbied against hate crimes protections for LGBTQ people, lobbied to keep the military’s now-defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in place, and advocated in favor of conversion therapy. Afraid of the influence that FRC might have over Pompeo, GLAAD noted in its Trump Accountability Project that the CIA director has previously expressed similar views on LGBTQ issues during his time in Congress.
GLAAD, which had hand-delivered research about Pompeo’s anti-LGBQ views to the Senate offices of all 21 Foreign Relations Committee members, has noted that Pompeo appeared at least six separate times on FRC’s radio show, and, according to The Washington Post, consulted with FRC’s Tony Perkins on steps he was taking to expand chaplain services to CIA employees. FRC also endorsed Pompeo’s 2014 re-election bid, specifically citing Pompeo’s “support for [traditional, heterosexual] marriage” and “traditional family values” as justification.
“The culture has been challenged beyond all reasonable limits,” Perkins wrote in an endorsement posted to Pompeo’s campaign website. “The strong, conservative men and women elected in 2010 and 2012 need reinforcements … The votes you have cast on the life issue reflect your concern for mother and child and your support for marriage as between one man and one woman.”
“Mike Pompeo’s reaffirmed opposition to marriage equality and LGBTQ rights further proves that he is dangerously wrong to serve as our nation’s chief diplomat,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement responding to Thursday’s confirmation hearing. “His personal ties to anti-LGBTQ hate groups and clear refusal to support the hard-fought equal rights of the LGBTQ community make him wholly unqualified to promote human rights abroad.”
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