Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sent a letter to senators on the Foreign Relations Committee urging them to oppose Donald Trump’s nomination for the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, staunch anti-LGBTQ politician Sam Brownback.
“Given Gov. Brownback’s anti-LGBTQ record, it is deeply worrying that he could use this position to promote the harmful idea that individuals holding certain religious views should somehow be permitted be discriminate against LGBTQ people or other minorities,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “This is particularly concerning because LGBTQ people often face persecution in the same countries where religious minorities face persecution. Gov. Brownback must not be allowed to use this position to reverse the State Department’s longstanding policies, reiterated by Secretary of State Tillerson earlier this year, to support ‘the fundamental freedoms of LGBTQ persons to live with dignity and freedom.’”
Brownback doubled down on his discriminatory record at his hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 4, when he pointedly refused to answer Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) repeated question on if there were “any circumstance under which religious freedom can justify criminalizing, imprisoning, or executing somebody based on their LGBT status could be deemed acceptable because somebody asserts they are religiously motivated in doing so.”
If confirmed, Brownback would be tasked with promoting religious freedom as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy while monitoring religious persecution and discrimination around the world. This position has historically played an important role in combating the dangerous and often deadly religious persecution that plagues so many corners of our world. This is an important mission, but one that Trump and Mike Pence have shown they are only interested in upholding a very limited version of by nominating Brownback. Instead, Trump, Pence, and Brownback are determined to further advance a dangerous license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom.
One of the nation’s least popular governors, Brownback has an extensive history of opposing equality at every turn and has promoted discriminatory laws in the Sunflower State. As governor, he orchestrated a policy change that would make it nearly impossible for transgender Kansans to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. He also signed into law a legislative attack on LGBTQ college students that forces public universities to fund student organizations that discriminate by restricting membership and denying LGBTQ students from participating under the guise of “religious beliefs.”
In 2015, Brownback shamefully attacked LGBTQ state employees by stripping away non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Later that year, following the landmark ruling declaring marriage equality law of the land, Brownback issued another blatantly discriminatory executive order against LGBTQ Kansans. The measure prohibited the state government from taking action against clergy members or faith organizations that deny services to same sex couples based on religious beliefs.