Every One of Donald Trump’s Cabinet Picks So Far Opposes LGBT Rights

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Nikki Haley, Mike Flynn, and Betsy DeVos.Photo: Getty Images

During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump did something unusual: He acknowledged LGBT Americans. Referring to the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Trump said, “This time, the terrorist targeted the LGBTQ community … and we’re going to stop it.” He then promised to “protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

Coming from a Republican politician, even an acknowledgment of the LGBT community is pretty novel. But Trump’s promise was to protect LGBT Americans from hateful ideology abroad — he didn’t mention the hatred many regularly experience at home, sometimes due to policies proposed by people with whom he surrounds himself. Because of all his cabinet and cabinet-level picks so far, not one has a history of standing up for LGBT rights.

Jeff Sessions, attorney general

It isn’t just the definition of sexual assault that Alabama senator Jeff Sessions has twisted. As the Huffington Post pointed out when Trump nominated him for the post of attorney general, you can pick almost any LGBT rights issue, and chances are Sessions has voted against it. He supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage; voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of hate crimes; and voted against repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

He also co-sponsored a bill that would allow Alabama’s definition of marriage to supersede the federal definition, basically ending same-sex marriage in the state. And he’s co-sponsoring the First Amendment Defense Act, which would let government-funded organizations ignore laws that conflict with their religious beliefs. His score with the Human Rights Campaign is a big, fat zero.

Mike Pompeo, Central Intelligence Agency director

Trump chose Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo to fill the post of CIA director around the same time he tapped Sessions. While serving in congress, Pompeo voted to protect anti-same-sex marriage opinions as free speech and also supported a bill saying a state’s definition of marriage should supersede the federal one. And during a 2014 interview with a Kansas State University radio station, Pompeo elaborated on his opinion of same-sex marriage. “I don’t agree with [same-sex marriage],” he said. “I think marriage ought to continue to be between one man and one woman.” He went on, “I think as you look back at civilization, look back at history, you find the strength of these families having a father and a mother is the ideal condition for childbearing. Doesn’t mean there aren’t great families with single parents, great young men and women raised without either parent. If you’re asking for what is ideal, I think it’s being raised by a man and a woman.”

Betsy DeVos, Education secretary

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Education secretary, comes from a wealthy Michigan family with a long history of donating to anti-LGBT, pro-GOP causes. According to Politico, DeVos and her husband — Dick DeVos — have “given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group whose founder called the battle against LGBT rights a ‘second civil war.’” DeVos’s late father and her husband’s family were also major donors to the Family Research Council (another conservative Christian group), and they reportedly donated thousands to efforts to block the legalization of same-sex marriage in states like Florida, Michigan, and California. The DeVos family reportedly donated $400,000 to victims of the Orlando shooting, but many pointed out that this pales in comparison to what they’ve spent to oppose LGBT causes.

Tom Price, Health and Human Services secretary

As a state representative for Georgia, Tom Price — Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary —- voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and in favor of defining marriage in the Constitution as between one man and one woman. He also has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, and pro-LGBT advocates worry that, as secretary of Health, he could take away protections specifically for transgender Americans. Price is in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, which bans sex discrimination — including discrimination against trans people — in health care. That means insurance providers are obligated to cover transition-related care, but with Price at the helm, that’s liable to change.

Price has also criticized protections for transgender students in public schools, saying a “federal restroom policy” is “yet another abuse and overreach of power by the Obama administration, and a clear invasion of privacy.”

Elaine Chao, Transportation secretary

Yesterday, Trump named Elaine Chao to the post of secretary of Transportation. Chao served as secretary of Labor for eight years under George W. Bush, and before that she worked as a deputy secretary of Transportation under Bush Sr. She has no voting record, so it’s tough to pin down where Chao stands on the issue of LGBT rights, but her family provides some clues. She’s married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who led opposition to LGBT rights in the upper house. Chao has campaigned heavily for her husband in the past, so it’s likely she shares at least some of his views on the issue.

Reince Priebus, chief of staff

True, Reince Priebus — Trump’s new chief of staff — doesn’t have a voting record either, but as chairman of the Republican Party, the guy spearheaded one of the most anti-LGBT platforms to date. Among other things, it calls for the repeal of same-sex marriage, gives states the right to choose which bathroom transgender people use, and defends businesses who deny service to LGBT Americans based on their religious beliefs. Priebus has also gone on record saying that being raised by heterosexual parents is the “best scenario” for children. (In fact, studies have shown that children raised by same-sex couples are just as happy and successful as those raised by opposite-sex couples.)

Mike Flynn, White House national security adviser

According to the Human Rights Campaign, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has a “history of animus toward LGBT people.” Most recently Flynn, whom Trump has named national security adviser, went on a tirade against “political correctness” in response to the Obama administration’s decision to allow transgender soldiers to serve openly in the military. “My God, war is not about bathrooms,” he said at the Republican National Convention. “War is not about political correctness or words that are meaningless. War is about winning.” Flynn appeared to contradict himself during an interview in July, saying, “On the gay issue, hey, you know what, if people love each other, Jesus, I mean, come on.” It’s unclear how or if his personal views will factor into the way he runs the military.

Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley will serve as the ambassador to the United Nations, and although she drew fire from conservative pundits for referencing “modern families” in her response to Obama’s final State of the Union, she’s not exactly progressive when it comes to LGBT issues. In 2010 she said marriage is between “one man and one woman,” and three years later she backed her state’s ban on same-sex marriage. “The citizens of South Carolina spoke … they spoke something that I, too, believe, which is marriage should be between a man and a woman,” she said at the time. “I’m going to stand by the people of this state, stand by the Constitution, I’m going to support it and fight for it every step of the way.”

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