Donald Trump has ousted his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with former GOP lawmaker Mike Pompeo, who has an extensive anti-LGBT record.
Under the leadership of former oil exec Rex Tillerson, Trump’s State Department had maintained some of the work on global LGBT rights that had begun under the Obama administration.
While other federal government departments worked to undermine civil rights protections, Secretary Tillerson struck a conciliatory tone and issued statements to mark Pride Month and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, continuing commitments to basic LGBT rights.
However, President Trump today announced that he had ousted Tillerson after a long period of bitter disagreement, and replaced him with former Republican lawmaker Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo, who Trump previously appointed to head the CIA, sponsored a number of anti-LGBT bills while a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Kansas’s 4th district.
While serving in the House, the lawmaker was previously a co-sponsor of the State Marriage Defense Act, a proposed law that would have allowed states to continue to refuse to recognise 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.
Pompeo also opposed repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which banned openly gay soldiers in the military.
Defending the law, 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, Tillerson had at times been the only senior member of the Trump administration to speak about LGBT rights.
Marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, Tillerson said:” The United States honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who have lost their lives to acts of violence.
“Transgender individuals and their advocates, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex persons, are facing increasing physical attacks and arbitrary arrests in many parts of the world. Often these attacks are perpetrated by government officials, undermining the rule of law.
“Transgender persons should not be subjected to violence or discrimination, and the human rights they share with all persons should be respected.
“On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States remains committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons. These principles are inherent in our own Constitution and drive the diplomacy of the United States.”
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 organizations working around the world to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons to live with dignity and freedom.
“We also recognize 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 organizations 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.”