May 1, 2018 at 6:21 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Mike Pompeo praises U.S. diplomats in first State Department speech

Mike Pompeo, gay news, Washington Blade

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 1, 2018, delivered his first speech at the State Department. (Washington Blade by Michael Key)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday used his first speech at the State Department to praise U.S. diplomats and other members of the Foreign Service.

“I have a great deal to learn about the State Department and how we perform our mission, but as people, I’m confident that I know who you are,” he said in remarks that he gave while standing on one of the staircases above the State Department’s C Street lobby. “I know that you came here. You chose to be a Foreign Service officer or a civil servant or to come work here in many other capacities and to do so because you’re patriots and great Americans and because you want to be an important part of America’s face to the world. My mission will be to lead you and allow you to do that, the very thing you came here to do.”

The U.S. Senate on April 26 confirmed Pompeo by a 57-42 vote margin. He succeeds Rex Tillerson, who President Trump fired in March.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius is among many senior diplomats and State Department officials who resigned during Tillerson’s tenure. Tillerson also faced criticism over his management style and efforts to restructure the State Department.

President Trump has proposed steep cuts to the budgets of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.S. Senate on April 26 confirmed Richard Grenell as the next U.S. ambassador to Germany. LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and around the world are among those who nevertheless continue to criticize the Trump administration’s overall foreign policy.

The hundreds of State Department personnel who listened to Pompeo’s speech on Tuesday applauded him as he entered the building. Pompeo, for his part, said he will work to return some of the State Department’s “swagger.”

“The United States diplomatic corps needs to be in every corner, every stretch of the world, executing missions on behalf of this country, and it is my humble, noble undertaking to help you achieve that,” he said.

Pompeo makes no mention of LGBT rights

Pompeo was the director of the CIA when Trump nominated him to succeed Tillerson. Pompeo represented Kansas’ 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011-2017.

Pompeo co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed states to refuse to recognize the marriages of gays and lesbians. He also opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and has long-standing ties with the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.

Pompeo during his confirmation hearing reaffirmed his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples. He also did not specifically answer U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)’s question about whether he thinks “being gay is a perversion.”

“I treat each and everyone of our officers with respect,” Pompeo told U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) during his confirmation hearing in response to a question she asked about the treatment of gay CIA personnel under his tenure. “I promise I will do that as secretary of state.”

Pompeo on Tuesday made no mention of LGBT-specific issues in his remarks. He also did not address concerns over his previous statements against Muslims that he continues to face.

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

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