Trump's foreign aid office is under fire for anti-LGBTQ appointees

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Merritt Corrigan, Bethany Kozma, and Mark Lloyd all have histories of rabid homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

Staffers at the U.S. Agency for International Development are reportedly upset about the recent appointment of three anti-LGBTQ Trump loyalists, which they say has created a hostile work environment.

Axios reported on Wednesday that 13 Employee Resource Groups at the agency wrote this week to John Barsa, acting USAID administrator, complaining about "problematic language" used by Deputy White House Liaison Merritt Corrigan, Deputy Chief of Staff Bethany Kozma, and Religious Freedom Advisor Mark Lloyd.

"The use of these words and concepts creates a hostile work environment, undermines our efforts to advance USAID’s critical mission, and is antithetical to USAID’s core values of respect, empowerment and inclusion," the groups wrote.

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The letter did not name the trio, but referenced media reports of their anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Basra has reportedly agreed to meet with the groups, though he has previously defended the three political appointees.

"USAID is honored to have Bethany Kozma, Merritt Corrigan, and Mark Lloyd serve at the agency. They are committed to enacting the policies of President Donald J. Trump," he said in a June 8 press release.

A USAID spokesperson declined to comment further for this story.

A review of Corrigan’s, Kozma’s, and Lloyd’s records shows a documented history of bigotry toward the LGBTQ community.

Merritt Corrigan

Merritt Corrigan recently became the USAID’s deputy White House liaison, and before that, worked for the Hungarian Embassy in the United States as well as the Republican National Committee.

Corrigan has a history of homophobic comments and has advocated for narrowly defined gender roles for women.

According to Politico, Corrigan changed her Twitter account to private last year after the outlet inquired about one of her previous tweets, in which she had written, "Our homo-empire couldn’t tolerate even one commercial enterprise not in full submission to the tyrannical LGBT agenda."

Béla Gedeon, a spokesperson for the Hungarian embassy, responded at the time that Corrigan was "a local American employee of the Embassy of Hungary, NOT a Diplomat," insisting that Corrigan’s views did not reflect "those of the Embassy of Hungary."

In October of last year, Corrigan wrote an article for The Conservative Woman — a London-based publication that opposes "anti-family, authoritarian identity politics and 'equality and diversity' ideology" — arguing that women should "return to the home" instead of pursuing a "masculine career."

Corrigan wrote, "We now toil side-by-side with men, equal in our voting rights, but unequal in our needs," adding that "feminism has reduced women to cheap imitations of men."

Corrigan also called the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, a “shining champion of Western civilization” in a tweet last year.

In 2017, Orbán spoke at a summit in Budapest hosted by the World Congress of Families, a Southern Poverty Law Center-identified anti-LGBTQ hate group.

Leaders of the group and other affiliated with it have espoused dangerous views in the past, suggesting that “the gay lifestyle itself is destructive” and that “there is no comparison between [same-sex marriage] and natural marriage."

At the summit, the prime minister claimed the European Union held a “relativising liberal ideology that’s an insult to families,” according to the Guardian. BuzzFeed News reported at the time that Orbán also encouraged Europeans to “restore natural reproduction,” suggesting it was the no. 1 “European interest,” and slammed immigration as a threat to the region.

In March, Orbán also said his government would stop allowing people to change their gender marker on identifying documents, and in May, the country passed a law that defines gender as "by primary sex characteristics and chromosomes” and makes it impossible for transgender people to correct their birth certificates.

One of Corrigan’s own tweets, also unearthed by Politico, similarly criticized “liberal” ideologies.

"Liberal democracy is little more than a front for the war being waged against us by those who fundamentally despise not only our way of life, but life itself," she wrote previously.

Bethany Kozma

Deputy Chief of Staff Bethany Kozma also has a record of anti-LGBTQ comments.

Kozma has written for the far-right Daily Signal in the past. In her writing, she repeatedly associates sexual violence with policies that allow transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

Kozma wrote in 2016 that bathroom access for transgender students meant that victims of sexual assault would be “re-traumatized by having biological males undress in front of them” and added that the “radical agenda of subjective ‘gender fluidity’ and unrestricted shower and bathroom access actually endangers all."

There is no evidence to support that claim.

In 2017, Kozma also told the Loudoun County Public Schools board that policies supporting transgender children would open up young girls "to sexual harassment… sexual assault or rape."

In 2016, she claimed at a Fairfax County Public Schools board meeting that they should imagine “how predators will be emboldened and enabled” if they favored a policy that did not discriminate against transgender students.

Studies have repeatedly found that transgender students are in fact at higher risk of disccrimination, violence, and sexual assault in school.

A 2019 study, published in the journal Pediatrics, which cited responses to an anonymous web-based LGBTQ Teen Study survey, showed a higher prevalance of sexual assault among transgender and nonbinary teens whose schools had locker room and restroom restrictions.

Among those transgender and nonbinary teens surveyed, 26% said they had been a victim of sexual assault in the past year, and for transgender and nonbinary teens who went to schools with restrictions on their bathroom access, 35% said they were sexually assaulted.

The Family Research Council, which claimed as recently as 2016 that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed,” also supported a campaign Kozma organized called United We Stand, in which she opposed Obama-era protections for transgender students. The Trump administration has since rescinded those protections.

In 2018, during a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, Kozma, then a senior adviser for gender equality and women’s empowerment at USAID, said that the United States was a “pro-life nation,” according to BuzzFeed News.

People present at the meeting described the administration’s positions on women’s health as more conservative than they were at the previous year’s commission, as well as further to the right than positions under George W. Bush’s administration.

Mark Lloyd

Mark Kevin Lloyd, a former Tea Party activist and the Virginia state director for Trump’s 2016 campaign, was appointed USAID “religious freedom advisor” in May.

Two years earlier, while working as field operations director for Republican state legislator Nick Freitas’ unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia, Lloyd was criticized for a number of discriminatory social media posts, a number of which were anti-LGBTQ.

According to a report by Blue Virginia’, Lloyd had posted an array of discriminatory comments on his now-deleted Twitter feed.

In September 2017, he defended misgendering transgender people, writing, “I’m not going to play the pronoun game. XY=he, him,boy XX=she, her, girl."

In May 2015, he shared a story about the failed 2013 Republican nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor opposing same-sex marriage, praising him as a "fearless warrior for what is right."

He also twice dismissed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as “Hillary Clinton in drag."

Earlier in 2015, he shared a Fox News story about LGBTQ-inclusive education in California, writing, "There is NO room for other opinions when it comes to the homo-fascist [sic] who are dominating education at every level."

And in March 2013, he falsely implied that gay men are child abusers, tweeting that parents should think “carefully before you send your son unto the woods with an openly gay scout master."

Outside of his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, Lloyd also described one of the women who accused failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual predation as a "3X Divorcee" in November 2017. He has regularly used sexist terms to describe women, and once claimed that "ISLAM is violent in it's [sic] doctrine and practice."

Lloyd’s appointment has since drawn criticism from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Emgage Action, and the Anti-Defamaton League.

Lloyd did not respond to a request for comment about his previous remarks. He told Big League Politics in 2018 that his sexist postings from 2013 to 2017 were "probably something I did a long time ago," adding, "I might not should have said it."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.