President Trump nominated Kansas Governor and staunch anti-LGBTQ politician Sam Brownback to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
According to the State Department website, the office is tasked with promoting religious freedom as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy while monitoring religious persecution and discrimination around the world. This position has traditionally played an important role in combating the dangerous and often deadly religious persecution that plagues so many corners of our world. This is an important mission, but one that Trump and Governor Brownback have shown they aren’t interested in upholding. Trump has twisted our core American value of religious freedom into nothing more than a license to discriminate. The nomination of Brownback certainly sends a signal that the Administration intends to move away from fighting traditional religious discrimination and to instead distort our nation’s commitment to religious freedom into a weapon to advance discrimination.
The nation’s second least popular governor has an extensive history of being a vocal opponent of equality and has promoted discriminatory laws in the Sunflower State. As governor, Brownback orchestrated a policy change that would make it nearly impossible for transgender Kansans to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. He also signed into law a legislative attack on LGBTQ college students that forces public universities to fund student organizations that discriminate by restricting membership and denying LGBTQ students from participating under the guise of “religious beliefs.”
In 2015, Brownback shamefully attacked LGBTQ state employees by stripping away non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Later that year, following the landmark ruling declaring marriage equality law of the land, Brownback issued another blatantly discriminatory executive order against LGBTQ Kansans. The measure prohibited the state government from taking action against clergy members or faith organizations that deny services to same sex couples based on religious beliefs.
So-called “religious freedom” is often twisted and used as code by anti-LGBTQ activists to mean a license to discriminate, and these types of measures are nothing new to the Trump administration. Earlier this year, HRC condemned Trump’s executive order, which paved the way for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create a license to discriminate in agencies across the federal government. This directive, as well as Brownback’s appointment, should be incredibly alarming to the LGBTQ community in the U.S. and around the world.
Brownback’s appointment could help promote those same discriminatory ideologies in other nations where many places still persecute LGBTQ people just because of who they are. This stands in stark contrast to his predecessor in the position, Rabbi David Saperstein, who had a long history of championing LGBTQ equality alongside his work for religious freedom.
HRC is deeply disappointed by Trump’s nomination of this anti-LGBTQ politician to this important post.