President Donald Trump’s latest White House appointment claimed that homosexuality is a “choice” in a 2014 video unearthed by CNN.
Sam Clovis, a former Trump advisor, is poised to become the new undersecretary of agriculture for research, education, and economics for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis was asked about LGBTQ rights during a 2014 campaign stop on his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. Clovis remarked that queer and transgender people don’t deserve to be protected from discrimination based on their identity.
Why, you might ask? Let Clovis explain.
“Someone who engages in LGBT behaviorI don’t know what the science is on this, I think it’s still outbut as far as we know, LGBT behavior is a choice they make,” Clovis says. “So we’re being asked to provide Constitutional protections for behavior, a choice in behavior as opposed to a primary characteristic.”
The right-wing talk radio host also claims that LGBTQ rights is a slippery slope that could lead to a number of dangerous behaviors.
“Follow the logic, if you engage in a particular behavior, what also becomes protected?” Clovis adds. “If we protect LGBT behavior, what other behaviors are we going to protect? Are we going to protect pedophilia? Are we going to protect polyamorous marriage relationships? Are we going to protect people who have fetishes?”
When a constituent pushes back on these remarks, Clovis stands his ground.
“I don’t think it’s extreme,” Clovis remarks. “I think it’s a logical extension of thought. And if you cannot follow the logic, then you’re in denial.”
When questioned about his comments by CNN, the USDA claimed that following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, the matter of LGBTQ rights is “settled.” That response parrots a talking point from Trump’s presidential campaign, but it’s untrue. Queer and trans people can be fired from their jobs in at least 28 states for no other reason than who they are or how they love.
In his career as an conservative pundit, Clovis has fought for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ workers. He states in a 2012 blog post that businesses “should be able to make decisions about who is employed if hiring people who do not behave in accordance with some deeply held religious belief system is at issue.”
LGBTQ advocates told INTO that Clovis’ comments are alarming, especially given his boss’ controversial track record on civil rights.
“Sam Clovis’ nomination further emphasizes how President Trump is willing to do just about anything possible to make his administration the most anti-LGBTQ in recent memory,” says Drew Anderson, director of news and rapid response for GLAAD.
In February, rumors circulated that Trump would sign an anti-LGBTQ executive order giving businesses and private individuals broad license to discriminate on the basis of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” That order was allegedly tabled at the urging of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, but numerous reports have suggested it remains in play.
“Despite his claims before the election, President Trump has proven to be no friend of the LGBTQ community,” adds David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.
Clovis is just the latest Trump appointment to receive criticism from advocates for having a noted anti-LGBTQ history.
Mark Green, tapped by the POTUS to fill the shoes of openly gay Army Secretary Eric Fanning, once claimed that being transgender is a disease. Fanning later withdrew his name from consideration. Ben Carson, the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has claimed same-sex marriage leads to bestiality and polygamy. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ family has donated millions to anti-LGBTQ causes.
Clovis, a former Trump campaign advisor, has been met with criticism for more than anti-LGBTQ views. A vocal denier of climate change, critics say he has no background in science or agriculture. If appointed, Clovis would act as chief scientist for the USDA.
His confirmation awaits a vote in the Senate.