Mainly White Men with Poor Civil Rights Records to Lead Trump Gov’t

Lone Black Cabinet pick Ben Carson and one of only two women chosen also have negative attitudes toward gay rights.
Moses Frenck

For the first time in a quarter-century, the government’s most influential departments will be led entirely by white men in a Trump Administration. Meanwhile, many of President-elect Donald Trump’s senior picks also have dismal records when it comes to advocating for diversity, equality and civil rights.

Trump’s choices for the “Big Four” Cabinet posts — Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury and Justice — are all white men, which has not occurred since George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet in 1989.

Mainly White Men with Poor Civil Rights Records to Lead Trump Gov

Trump Cabinet picks (l-r): Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis (Defense), former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson (State), Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (Justice).

Additionally, Trump’s first appointments for chief of staff, chief strategist, CIA director and national security adviser are all white men as well, as is Vice President-elect Mike Pence. In fact, of Trump’s 18 selections to date, 15 are white men, two are women and Ben Carson, nominated to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the lone Black man. No Latinos have yet been chosen.

Trump’s announcement this week to nominate Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy not only adds another white man to his inner circle, but also another individual with a long history of opposing equal rights for the gay community. Perry has supported ballot measures to ban marriage equality in Texas and also supported a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage equality nationwide. He has also attacked judges who have ruled against bans on same-gender marriage.

One of Trump’s most concerning picks is Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General. Sessions, who in 1986 was rejected for a federal judgeship by a Republican-controlled Senate due to racial comments and actions, is considered to have an “anti-civil rights” Senate voting record by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sessions has voted in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage; against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act; and against an amendment to expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability.

Sessions has also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, has opposed the Voting Rights Act and is opposed to immigration reform. He also once referred to a white civil rights lawyer as a “disgrace to his race” for taking on voting rights cases.

“It is deeply disturbing that Jeff Sessions, who has such clear animus against so many Americans — including the LGBTQ community, women and people of color — could be charged with running the very system of justice designed to protect them,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in a statement. “When Donald Trump was elected, he promised to be a president for all Americans, and it is hugely concerning and telling that he would choose a man so consistently opposed to equality as one of his first — and most important — Cabinet appointees.”

Trump’s other recent pick was ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state. Separate from Tillerson’s close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, some opponents have criticized ExxonMobil’s record on gay rights under Tillerson’s leadership.

“Rex Tillerson’s nomination raises critical questions as to how a Trump administration plans to protect LGBTQ employees and contractors affiliated with the State Department, and ultimately whether it will continue American efforts to advance equality through U.S. foreign policy,” Griffin added.

The HRC has consistently given Exxon poor grades for how it treats LGBTQ employees with regard to its policies, benefits and practices. According to HRC, Exxon eliminated Mobil’s domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian employees and removed a policy preventing discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation when the companies merged in 1999.

Tillerson, 64, has spent his entire career at Exxon Mobil, joining the company in 1975 and becoming chairman and CEO in 2006.

Meanwhile, former neurosurgeon and presidential candidate Ben Carson, who was tapped to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has said he does not believe marriage equality is a civil right and said he believes Congress should remove judges who rule in favor same-gender marriage.

Carson has not only indicated his lack of support for gay rights, but has denigrated the gay community. During the presidential campaign, Carson said he believes being gay is a choice, “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.” He also compared same-gender marriage to bestiality in an interview with Fox News: “My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition.”

Furthermore, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, together with her family, has donated millions of dollars to organizations that encourage “conversion therapy” and support ballot initiatives to ban gay marriage.

DeVos also is not a big supporter of public schools, and Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Georgia Congressman Tom Price, opposes protections for transgender students in public schools.

As a congressman, Price has voted against repealing the ban allowing lesbian, gay and bisexual people to serve openly in the military and voted in favor a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. He also has voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This week Trump also named campaign adviser Stephen Miller to be a senior White House policy adviser. Miller previously served as an aide to Sen. Sessions but was called out during the campaign for his views criticizing multiculturalism and immigration as a conservative columnist for the Duke University campus newspaper.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Richard Spencer, the leader of the so-called Alt-Right white nationalist movement and fellow Duke student, said he befriended Miller and appreciated his views.

“It’s funny no one’s picked up on the Stephen Miller connection,” Spencer said. “I knew him very well when I was at Duke. But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this because I don’t want to harm Trump.”

In his columns, Miller referred to multiculturalism as “segregation” and said paid family leave results in men “getting laid off because [their] boss was losing too much money by paying absent employees ”

Trump last month named Ken Blackwell — a man with a long anti-LGBT history — as another domestic policy adviser.

Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council (FRC), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group that “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.”

One of Trump’s first picks was Breitbart Chairman Steve Bannon to serve as his chief strategist and with equal power to his chief of staff.

Bannon has “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” according to a New York Times interview of former colleague Julia Jones.

Last month, Trump appointed retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to serve as his national security adviser. Flynn has a history of using racist rhetoric. Earlier this year he tweeted, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

Also raising concern is Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, who has a history of racist and hateful rhetoric, frequently posting derogatory content and unfounded conspiracy theories on social media — and has served as his father’s chief of staff.

For CIA director Trump tapped Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, who also has been noted for making anti-Muslim remarks.

(Originally published in DiversityInc Dec. 15, 2016.)