Social conservatives are swarming to defend Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo after he was grilled about his past anti-gay comments.
During his confirmation hearing Thursday, Pompeo faced a barrage of questions from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about his history of intolerant views. Booker asked Pompeo point blank — several times — if he believes that homosexuality is a perversion, as he suggested in a 2015 speech after the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Pompeo refused to answer.
The Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, was quick to praise Pompeo’s performance as “calm, dignified, [and] knowledgeable,” but suggested that Booker tried to paint him as a “hater.”
“Booker’s attack became more intense, suggesting that Christians who believe in the Bible’s definition of sexuality had no business running a government agency,” the group claimed in its Washington Update daily newsletter, notably omitting the word “perversion.”
Over at Fox News, commentator Todd Starnes was up in arms over Booker’s interrogation. “It was an obscene question – sickening!” Starnes insisted, claiming that LGBTQ advocates were attacking Pompeo for his faith. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for people of the Christian faith to practice their religion in the public marketplace,” he whined. “Religious liberty is under attack — as evidenced by today’s sordid congressional hearing.”
The issue came up again on Fox News Friday morning, when the hosts of Fox & Friends asked Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) whether same-sex marriage should have been a question. “No!” Gowdy replied. “And I doubt they asked that of Clinton or Kerry. I guarantee they didn’t ask, ‘Can you be independent from the person who’s giving you the job?’ It’s a double standard. ”
The all-but-defunct National Organization for Marriage also fired off a fundraising plea (in the form of a “petition”) claiming Booker “just crossed a red line” because he “attacked” Pompeo, who the group defended as “a Christian who believes the truth about marriage.”
“The consequence of Booker’s position would be to disqualify from public office all Christians, Jews and members of other faiths that understand the truth that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” the group warned.
Booker didn’t attack Pompeo’s faith. Indeed, as Booker himself explained, there are important reasons to consider how the secretary of state will respond on LGBTQ issues. Many diplomats and State Department staffers may have to travel to countries where their same-sex marriages are not legally recognized. Moreover, some 72 nations still criminalize homosexuality, a severe violation of human rights. Just this week, leaders in Uganda indicated their intentions to reintroduce a law that would imprison gay people for life.
While the fight for the right to marry in the U.S. is over, conservative groups are still trying to chip away at LGBTQ rights in other ways, such as allowing wedding vendors to refuse service to same-sex couples. By coming to Pompeo’s defense, these groups basically just admitted that opposing marriage equality and seeing homosexuality as a perversion are one in the same.