April 12, 2018 at 2:39 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Pompeo grilled over anti-LGBT statements during confirmation hearing

Mike Pompeo, gay news, Washington Blade

The confirmation hearing on CIA Director Mike Pompeo‘s nomination to become the next secretary of state took place before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 12, 2018. (Washington Blade by Michael Key)

Mike Pompeo on Thursday during his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of state faced questions about his previous anti-LGBT statements.

Pompeo reaffirmed his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples when U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked about a 2015 speech in which he cited a prayer from an anti-gay preacher that described homosexuality as a “perversion” and an “alternative lifestyle.” Pompeo also did not directly answer Booker’s question about whether he thinks “being gay is a perversion.”

“My respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same,” Pompeo told Booker and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

President Trump last month nominated Pompeo — who is the current CIA director — to succeed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after he fired him. Pompeo represented Kansas’ 4th Congressional District from 2011-2017.

Pompeo opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also co-sponsored a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have allowed states to refuse to recognize the marriages of gays and lesbians.

Pompeo also has long-standing ties with the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.

The Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal are among the dozens of LGBT and civil rights organizations that have come out against Pompeo’s nomination because of his previous statements against homosexuality, marriage rights for same-sex couples, Muslims and other issues.

“We had a terrible fellow in Kansas named Fred Phelps,” Pompeo told Booker in response to a question about his previous statements against Muslims. “I called him out.”

Pompeo told Booker that he treated married gay couples at the CIA “with the exact same set of rights.” Pompeo also said to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that he has “honored and valued every CIA officer, regardless” of their sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.

“I treat each and everyone of our officers with respect,” Pompeo told Shaheen. “I promise I will do that as secretary of state.”

Pompeo: State Department workforce ‘must be diverse’

The hearing took place against the backdrop of increasing concern over whether Trump will fire Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or special counsel Robert Mueller who are investigating whether his campaign had any ties to Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. Trump in the coming days is also expected to potentially authorize a military strike against Syria after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons to attack a one-time rebel stronghold outside of the country’s capital of Damascus.

Trump in the coming weeks is also expected to meet with North Korean President Kim Jong-un, who is under pressure to end his country’s nuclear weapons program.

“If we do not lead for democracy, for prosperity, for human rights around the world, than who will,” said Pompeo during the hearing.

Pompeo also told senators he would work to bolster morale at the State Department and seek to fill positions that went unfilled during Tillerson’s tenure.

“I believe deeply the State Department’s workforce must be diverse,” he said.

Van Hollen among lawmakers who oppose nomination

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who chairs the committee, on Thursday said he “avidly” supports Pompeo’s nomination. U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in a statement announced his opposition to Pompeo, citing his positions on a host of issues that include the deal with Iran over its nuclear program and torture.

“He has shown himself to be anti-equality and anti-Muslim, and quick to limit access to reproductive health care and deny the pressing issue of climate change,” notes Van Hollen in his statement. “For all of these reasons, I cannot support his nomination as secretary of state.”

U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are among the members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday who signed a letter to Corker and Menendez that urges the committee to vote against Pompeo’s nomination.

“We believe that Mr. Pompeo’s track record of opposing equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community, and his support for the use of torture, which is a tactic often used against LGBTI and other vulnerable communities, should disqualify him from consideration for the position of secretary of state,” reads the letter.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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