ABOVE: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was confirmed as U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers.
In his role as president of the U.S. Senate, Vice President Mike Pence had to break the tie Wednesday to confirm Sam Brownback as U.S. ambassador at-large for religious freedom.
Brownback was approved on party-line 50-49 vote. Pence’s tie-breaking vote was necessary to end the filibuster on his nomination and the confirmation itself. (For presidential appointees, only a majority vote is necessary to overcome a filibuster.) Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) were absent from the votes.
Both Pence and Brownback, who represented Kansas in Congress as a congressman and senator becoming governor of the state, have long anti-LGBT records.
As Kansas governor, Brownback rescinded an executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination in state employment and signed into law a “religious freedom” allowing religious groups at taxpayer-funded public universities to exclude LGBT members.
As a U.S. senator, Brownback championed a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide and opposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
Brownback’s anti-LGBT history was on display during his confirmation when queried about his past by Senate Democrats. Upon repeated questioning from Sen. Tim Kane (D-Va.), Brownback refused to say laws in foreign countries criminalizing LGBT status were always unjustified.
The U.S. ambassador at-large for international religious freedom heads up the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department. Traditionally, the appointee in that role has advocated for religious minorities facing persecution overseas.
The confirmation of Brownback, whom Trump first nominated last year, was opposed by LGBT groups.
Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement Brownback is unfit for the position, but complement other anti-LGBT appointees in the Trump administration.
“There is a vast difference between combating the real and horrific persecution facing religious minorities across the globe and Brownback’s own record of distorting religious freedom to promote anti-LGBTQ discrimination,” Ellis said. “Brownback now joins the ranks of an administration fully committed to promoting religious exemptions as a weapon of discrimination against LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities.”