The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Cory Booker grills Mike Pompeo on whether he believes being gay is a ‘perversion’

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) questioned secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo at his confirmation hearing April 12, asking, "Is being gay a perversion?" (Video: Reuters)

After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Mike Pompeo, the president's nominee to head the State Department, called the decision “wrong” and “a shocking abuse of power.”

In a statement condemning the decision, the then-congressman said:

“I am deeply saddened by the Supreme Court's ruling that imposes legalized gay marriage on the 70 percent of Kansans who voted to honor and protect the traditional definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. It is a shocking abuse of power. It is wrong. I will continue to fight to protect our most sacred institutions.”

Now that President Trump wants his former CIA director to be America's top diplomat, Democratic lawmakers and activists wonder whether  he will protect the rights of gay people globally.

During a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pushed Pompeo on his previous comments, particularly his suggestion that homosexuality was a “perversion.”

Booker: “Is being gay a perversion?”
Pompeo: “Senator, when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that.”
Booker: “So, you do not believe that it's appropriate for two gay people to marry?”
Pompeo: “Senator, I continue to hold that view.”

When pressed on how he would treat gay couples within the State Department, Pompeo replied that he treated all couples within the CIA “with the exact same set of rights.”

Booker went on to remind Pompeo that as secretary of state, he would be representing the U.S. internationally in countries where gay people are persecuted for their sexual orientation. The Trump administration was previously criticized for what critics called a slow response to the abduction, torture and even murder of about 100 men in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Pompeo, a conservative Christian whose nomination for secretary of state was praised by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, has a long record of opposition to same-sex marriage based on his religious views.

While headlining the God and Country Rally at an evangelical church in Kansas in 2015, the former congressman cited a prayer previously delivered before the Kansas State Legislature.

“America had worshiped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle,” Pompeo said.

Most Americans disagree with Pompeo's views on same-sex marriage. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, more than six in 10 Americans support it.

But Pompeo is not an outlier. Only 35 percent of white evangelical Christians support same-sex marriage, according to Pew. And 3 in 10 conservatives approve of it, while 40 percent of Republicans said the same thing.

There is doubt among some on the left that a person who opposes equal rights for gay people in America would call on global leaders to provide equal rights for gay people in their countries.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said there will be serious consequences for gay people around the world if Pompeo becomes America's top diplomat. He told The Washington Post:

“Mike Pompeo’s long-standing opposition to LGBTQ equality makes him a reckless choice to lead our nation’s diplomatic efforts. The decision to nominate 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 rapidly declining under [Rex] Tillerson. This decision has the potential to make a dire situation even worse. Pompeo does not deserve to be confirmed.”

The Obama administration was praised for advancements in LGBT issues domestically and abroad. Trump's nomination of an individual who critics consider hostile to gay rights could hurt the country's international reputation.