Newly minted Sen. Kamala Harris of California used her time Thursday to question CIA nominee Mike Pompeo about his views on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees at the agency.
Pompeo, a three-term Republican congressman from Kansas, had opposed gay marriage and had sponsored bills to let states prevent same-sex couples from marrying and protect nonprofit organizations that opposed gay marriage.
But at his confirmation hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Pompeo assured Harris that he’d treat every CIA employee “in a way that is appropriate and equal” and not work to undermine the benefits same-sex married couples have gained.
“You have my full commitment on that,” he said.
In 2014, Pompeo co-sponsored the State Marriage Defense Act after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The 2014 bill, which never made it to the House floor, would have allowed states to continue not to recognize same-sex marriages even if the federal government did.
In 2013, he co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would have protected the tax-exempt status of nonprofit organizations with a religious belief that marriage was limited to one man and one woman. That bill also didn’t make it out of committee.
On Thursday, Harris pressed Pompeo for how he would treat LGBT employees at the CIA, “some of whom have, of course, taken great risk to their lives for our country.”
“Can you commit to me that your personal views on this issue will remain your personal views and will not impact internal policies you put in place at the CIA?” she asked.
“You have my assurance that every employee will be treated in a way that is appropriate and equal,” Pompeo responded.
Pompeo said he’d held the same views about marriage when he worked in the private sector, but that he did not discriminate against anyone.
“I treated each and every member of my workforce with dignity and respect,” he said.
The CIA, and much of the federal government, officially prohibited openly gay people from receiving security clearances from the 1950s through the 1990s.
After President Bill Clinton signed an executive order ending that prohibition in 1995, the agency started a group for its LGBT employees called ANGLE.
Last month, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a group that supports LGBT equality in the workplace, gave ANGLE an award for “promoting an inclusive environment for LGBT officers and their allies” at the agency.
One of those allies was CIA Director John Brennan, who called the agency’s LGBT employees “an inspiration to me.”
“It is difficult to overstate how heartening this progress has been to me,” Brennan said. “When I see people defying stereotypes, living life on their own terms and staying true to who they are, I see more than kindred spirits — I see people who deserve my utmost respect and admiration.”
On Thursday, Pompeo did not say whether he’d support the organization or whether he considered himself an ally.