The US Senate has confirmed Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, despite his beliefs about gay people.
Pompeo, who has a long record of anti-LGBT stances as a Republican lawmaker, is Trump’s nominee to replace the outgoing Rex Tillerson as head of the State Department and will now oversee any future work on global LGBT rights.
The lawmaker attracted anger from LGBT groups in April when he refused to distance himself from his past comments describing gay people as a “perversion,” and has also insisted that he “stands by” his “very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry.”
But despite controversy over his views, the Senate voted on Thursday to make Pompeo the next Secretary of State, as his nomination passed with a 57-42 vote.
Pompeo is expected to be formally confirmed this weekend, shortly before leading the US delegation at a NATO meeting in Brussels.
President Trump greeted the news of Pompeo’s appointment.
In a statement to the BBC, Trump said: “Having a patriot of Mike’s immense talent, energy, and intellect leading the Department of State will be an incredible asset for our country at this critical time in history.”
Three Democratic Senators had said they would support his nomination prior to the vote in the general Senate.
In the end, six Democrats voted to support Pompeo, giving the Republicans a clear majority to appoint him.
One of the Democrats who supported Pompeo was Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who famously defeated the virulently anti-gay candidate Roy Moore in 2017.
The vote to approve Pompeo as a nominee for the role of Secretary of State was condemned by LGBT groups, who warned that his nomination and subsequent appointment could have a chilling effect on LGBT rights.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “Mike Pompeo’s long-standing opposition to LGBTQ equality and lack of diplomatic experience makes him a poor choice to lead our nation’s diplomatic efforts.
“Senate confirmation of anti-LGBTQ Mike Pompeo could have serious consequences for the United States and LGBTQ people around the globe. The State Department has a crucial role to play in advancing human rights — a role which was already significantly eroding under Rex Tillerson.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, added: “The fact that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved someone with ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group that supported Uganda’s efforts to punish and execute LGBTQ people to serve as our nation’s top diplomat is sickening.
“Together we must fight to prevent Mike Pompeo confirmation and ensure that anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism do not become one of our nation’s major exports.”
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, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had at times been the only senior member of the Trump administration to speak about LGBT rights.
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.”