At least six Democrats voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State on Thursday despite his virulently anti-LGBTQ record. But one, in particular, is likely to raise eyebrows: Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.
Jones, who upset Republican Roy Moore in the 2017 special election race, has been a vocal supporter of his openly gay son, Carson. The younger Jones opened up to INTO in November about his sexuality, claiming that he received instant affirmation from his father after the 22-year-old came out to his parents in a blog post.
“I love you,” Carson remembers them telling him.
Claiming the Joneses “expressed unconditional love” for their son, the first-term Congressman would later say that having a gay child influenced his support of LGBTQ rights. He told colleagues at a Senate meeting in April: “At the end of the day, a lot of this is so personal.”
“Everything affects you, but obviously a child affects you more than anything else,” Jones added.
But the former prosecutor joined other Senate Democrats like Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III in giving a stamp of approval to Pompeo on Thursday. The one-time CIA director was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill Rex Tillerson’s seat after the former ExxonMobil CEO was abruptly fired earlier this year.
“Having a patriot of Mike’s immense talent, energy, and intellect leading the Department of State will be an incredible asset for our country at this critical time in history,” Trump said after Pompeo sailed through on a 57 to 42 vote.
The decisive majority vote was perhaps a surprise after the Secretary of State nominee wouldn’t say whether he still believes homosexuality is a “perversion” under questioning by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). During a 2015 speech delivered at the “God and Country Rally” at Wichita’s Summit Church, Pompeo said the United States “endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.”
“Yes or no, do you believe gay sex is a perversion?” Booker asked.
Pompeo didn’t answer the question, instead pivoting to his record at the CIA. The Republican claimed that the agency had “married gay couples” and he “treated them with the exact same set of rights.”
“My respect for every individual, regardless of the sexual orientation, is the same,” the former Kansas Congressman said.
But those statements don’t appear to square with his record on LGBTQ rights, which has earned Pompeo a zero rating (i.e., the worst possible result) on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.
During his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pompeo voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” On the subject of queer and trans people serving openly in the U.S. armed forces, he claimed the military shouldn’t “promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of our nation.”
“When you enter the army, you give up a few of your rights,” Pompeo said while running for reelection in 2013.
In addition, the conservative has lobbied for legislation in Congress which would supersede the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling by giving each individual state the final authority in defining marriage for itself. He has also referred to the legalization of marriage equality as a “shocking abuse of power” on the part of SCOTUS.
Because of his history of unilaterally opposing LGBTQ rights, queer advocacy groups opposed Pompeo’s nomination.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement that the lawmakers “who cast their vote to confirm Mike Pompeo showed complete disregard for the global LGBTQ community by ignoring his ties to anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism.”
The National Center for Trans Equality further argued his record should have been disqualifying.
“It is difficult to imagine Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make a priority of fighting the abuses committed against LGBTQ people worldwide,” said Executive Director Mara Keisling in a statement. “Whether it’s the state-sponsored persecution of transgender women in Indonesia or the systematic violence and imprisonment of gay men in Chechnya, the world needs a strong presence fighting for the rights of the international LGBTQ community.”
INTO reached out to Jones’ office for a comment on Pompeo’s record but did not hear back at the time of publication. In a statement posted to his website, the Senator said he “did share [his] concerns about certain troubling statements he made as a member of Congress.”
“He gave me his word that… diplomacy would always be his first priority and he would ensure that our nation continues to be a leader in protecting human rights and the dignity of all people,” Jones said. “If he is confirmed, I will join my colleagues both in working with him to tackle the very serious challenges and threats we face as a nation, as well as to provide continued oversight of his and his department’s actions.”
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