The Trump administration has tapped one of the nation’s most devotedly anti-LGBTQ politicians to fill a position upholding “religious liberty” abroad.
On Wednesday evening, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was voted in as the International Religious Freedom ambassador-at-large following Senate gridlock over his confirmation. The upper house of Congress was split 49 to 49 on his appointment, but Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking ballot in the Republicans favor.
Pence, who cast a discriminatory “religious freedom” law as the governor of Indiana costing the state $60 million, claimed on Twitter he was “proud” to be deciding vote.
Referring to Brownback as his “friend,” the vice president called the conservative “a principled man of faith who will help the Trump Admin advance support for persecuted religious groups around the world” in a 6pm post to the @VP social media account.
The White House announced the 61-year-old politician’s nomination to lead the Office of International Religious Freedom in the U.S. Department of State six months ago, a position that has sat empty since Rabbi David Saperstein vacated the post in January 2017. The office was created as a provision of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 under President Bill Clinton.
The job of the ambassador-at-large is to “[monitor] religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom,” according to the State Department website.
Since Brownback was first tapped back in July 2017, LGBTQ advocates have fiercely opposed his appointment.
“Throughout his career, Sam Brownback has felt entitled to impose his anti-LGBTQ ideology on others, citing his faith while rescinding discrimination protections and voting against hate crime legislation,” says GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a press release calling his record on queer and trans equality “deeply troubling.”
The soon-to-be former governor has spent decades fighting against equal rights for queer and trans people.
In a controversial 2015 decision, Brownback rescinded an executive order on basic workplace protections preventing LGBTQ state employees from being discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The policies were enacted by Kathleen Sebelius, a Democratic governor who served from 2003 to 2009.
During his time in governor’s office and in the U.S. Senate, he’s voted against nearly every single piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation which has come across his desk.
The conservative opposes anti-LGBTQ hate crime legislation, believing that it will prevent people from “[speaking] their beliefs about homosexuality.” Hehas called for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, claiming that same-sex unions are “social experiments” which harm “traditional marriage.”
Unsurprisingly, hescored a zero percent from the Human Rights Campaign on equality, the advocacy group’s lowest possible rating.
“For decades, Sam Brownback has attacked the LGBTQ community and worked to undermine fairness and equality. His extremist, anti-LGBTQ actions should disqualify him from representing the people of the United States,” says HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy in a statement.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are stacking the administration with anti-LGBTQ politicians determined to carry out their harmful and discriminatory policies,” he continues.
Brownback was confirmed just days after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would be reshuffling to create a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. As INTO previously reported, it will allow “healthcare workers to refuse service on the basis of moral objections,” thus permitting discrimination against trans individuals and people living with HIV.