Advocates for reproductive health and LGBTQ equality are concerned about CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to helm the U.S. Department of State, while a prominent anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice hate group lauded President Trump for his pick.
Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday that Pompeo “will become our new Secretary of State,” bringing Rex Tillerson’s contentious tenure at the agency to an end. Tillerson, who once reportedly called the president a “moron,” wasn’t aware that he had been fired until he was shown the tweet.
Tillerson was no friend to global policies that support evidence-based reproductive health and LGBTQ populations. Under his leadership, the State Department implemented Trump’s expansion of the anti-choice global gag rule. Language addressing family planning and discrimination in the department’s upcoming annual report on global human rights is in danger, according to a recent Politico report. And LGBTQ equality groups repeatedly condemned Tillerson for remaining silent about violence against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.
Advocates fear that Pompeo could up the ante on the Trump-era State Department.
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As a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas’ fourth congressional district from 2011 to 2017, Pompeo consistently voted against reproductive rights, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.
The Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that also opposes abortion rights, praised Pompeo’s nomination. Tony Perkins, the organization’s president, called it “a very smart move by President Trump.”
Pompeo’s record on LGTBQ rights, according to a report in the Advocate, includes supporting a precursor to the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a “religious freedom,” or religious imposition, bill. The version that Pompeo backed in 2015 sought to shield people and groups that receive federal funds from penalties for discriminating against LGBTQ people, as Rewire.News reported. Senate Republicans this month reintroduced FADA.
At the State Department, Pompeo could force religious imposition around the world with help from former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Trump’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom. If the U.S. Senate confirms Pompeo, the secretary of state will be the religious imposition ambassador’s boss.
Those who work to advance reproductive health and LGBTQ equality had the opposite reaction.
“As the United States’ chief diplomat, Pompeo will have been given a platform to export this dangerous agenda around the world,” Rebecca Dennis, senior legislative policy analyst for PAI, a reproductive health nongovernmental organization, told Rewire.News.
The day before Tillerson’s ouster, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations’ reproductive health and rights agency, announced that the State Department had decided to withhold its funds for the second year in a row. The Trump State Department claims that UNFPA’s work violated the “Kemp-Kasten Amendment” prohibiting coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization; UNFPA denies it.
As a lawmaker, Pompeo supported federal legislation to defund UNFPA. Sarah Craven, director of UNFPA’s Washington office, encouraged Pompeo to reconsider the organization’s “lifesaving work”—and the department’s decision.
“We’re aware of Mr. Pompeo’s record of opposing funding for UNFPA. But we’re also aware of Mr. Pompeo’s military service and he may be interested that the U.S. Military forces in Iraq, Operation Inherent Resolve, tweeted favorably in January about the work UNFPA does for the health and safety of women in post-ISIS Iraq,” Craven said in a statement to Rewire.News.
“We welcome Mr. Pompeo, in any capacity, to visit ou[r] staff and programs in any of the 155 countries where we work. If he sees the work we do for the health and safety of some of the world’s most vulnerable people, we are confident he will come away a champion of UNFPA.”
GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy organization, has been monitoring Pompeo as part of its Trump Accountability Project. His nomination to the State Department only increased GLAAD’s concern.
“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,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
“This extremism should have no place in the U.S. State Department.”
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correctly identify the name of PAI.