Homophobia at Pompeo’s State Department

Last month, Dr. Kiron Skinner disappeared from her job as Secretary Pompeo’s Director of Policy Planning, allegedly ousted over poor and abusive leadership that included use of homophobic language.

Bravo, we guess:  by this point in our country’s history, surely homophobic leadership is beyond the pale.

But there’s been no public statement by Secretary Pompeo on the ouster, of course, so Pompeo’s motives in the dismissal are the stuff of conjecture.  Nor is there public evidence otherwise that Pompeo was displeased personally by anything that Skinner might have said:  no rumors of internal “team talk” to make clear that he won’t tolerate homophobic remarks, and no leaked internal memoranda to suggest concern about Department morale.

And importantly, despite a scathing Inspector General report rebuking yet another of Pompeo’s assistant secretaries for complicity in derailing an employee’s promotion partly for homophobic reasons, that assistant secretary remains in place.

So whatever the reasons for Skinner’s departure, one thing is clear:  Pompeo continues to tolerate homophobia in the workplace.

The aide in question — Kevin Moley, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs — reportedly green-lighted cancellation of the selection process of a new Deputy Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (IO/HRH) after the leading candidate was found to be someone that one of his senior bureau political appointees had “…found to be not ‘trustworthy’…,” partly because of “….his relationship with the gay and lesbian community.”**

There are regulations in place at State to guarantee a fair workplace and guard against these sorts of reprisals.  So why is Moley still there?

Pompeo himself, of course, hails from a fundamentalist religious culture and has characterized being gay as a “perversion.”  At his confirmation hearing to serve as Secretary of State, he notably declined to walk away from that characterization when pressed by Sen. Corey Booker. And in a speech to Concerned Women for America at the Trump hotel last week, he once again professed his personal belief, which is quickly becoming State Department policy, that human rights should be grounded in religion: “I know where those rights came from.  They came from our Lord, and when we get this right, we’ll have done something good, not just I think for the United States but for the world.”

But Pompeo’s personal views aren’t the question here.  Rather, the federal hiring and firing process is subject to federal rules, regulations and practices, and Pompeo’s role as leader of a diverse federal workplace makes it imperative that he ask Moley to leave.

There’s speculation that were Moley, like Skinner, an African-American and/or a woman, by now he would have been let go — or that if Skinner enjoyed Moley’s political connections, she might still be at Policy Planning’s helm.  Who knows?

But what we DO know is that Pompeo hasn’t honored his leadership obligations to ensure a fair government workplace.  Moley should be shown the door — and Pompeo should make clear to appointees and employees alike that homophobia has no place in the workplace he oversees.

**“Review of Allegations of Politicized and Other Improper Personnel Practices in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs,” Office of Inspector General, United States Department of State, August 2019, p. 18.

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