Mike Pompeo to speak at fundraiser associated with hate groups

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The secretary of state will give the keynote speech at the Florida Family Policy Council's gala on Saturday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to give a keynote speech at a fundraising event for an anti-LGBTQ group on Saturday.

The Florida Family Policy Council describes itself as a "leading pro-life, pro-family" organization. It's one of 38 state-based organizations associated with Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family. The group is selling $10,000 tickets for "a personal visit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo," ABC News reported.

The Florida Family Policy Council's website says religious liberty is "being threatened by radical LGBT activists who will not stop until they force all Americans to approve, support and celebrate their lifestyle."

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Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council have both been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The former group advocates for anti-LGBTQ clients in court, while the latter has fought against LGBTQ rights for decades.

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, has blatantly mixed his religious beliefs with the State Department's foreign policy agenda. Human rights experts say that a report from Pompeo's "Commission on Unalienable Rights" is an effort to redefine human rights across the globe and undermine LGBTQ rights in the process. In an interview with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, on Sept. 23 for the Values Voter Summit, Pompeo mentioned the report and encouraged people to read it.

Focus on the Family has railed against LGBTQ equality for many years. The group has published anti-LGBTQ articles on its website, including one criticizing transgender people's access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender.

John Stemberger, the president of the Florida Family Policy Council, has made transphobic and homophobic remarks for more than a decade. In 2010, Stemberger said that families with two mothers or two fathers are "an objectively inferior choice." Stemberger believes queer parents should not be allowed to adopt children, and his "pro-family" organization fought to prevent a same-sex couple in Florida from permanently adopting their foster child.

During his time leading the group, Stemberger has made a slew of homophobic and transphobic comments.

"Gender dysphoria is a mental disease," Stemberger said in 2017 while speaking about Donald Trump's transgender military ban. "These folks need help, they need care, they don't need to be put in the military. It's a bad public policy, and we applaud the president for reversing it."

He has also opposed the inclusion of transgender boys in the Boy Scouts.

When Stemberger explained what motivated him to leave his law practice to advocate against LGBTQ rights, he mentioned a transgender girl — whom Stemberger described as a boy.

"They counseled [her] into a complete state of confusion in obscurity so now [she] is dressed as a girl, is called a girl's name, uses the girl's bathroom in the public school in Miami," Stemberger said in 2008. "That's what motivates me."

Stemberger's group supports "conversion therapy," a harmful and unscientific practice that claims to forcibly change LGBTQ people's sexual orientation and gender identity. Under their LGBTQ issues page, the FFPC website describes "conversion therapy" bans as "unconstitutional limits on freedom of speech" that disregard parents' choice to place their child in "conversion therapy."

Before Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat, Stemberger's group applauded the Trump administration's original pick of Barbara Lagoa to serve on the Supreme Court. Lagoa is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Before she came a U.S. circuit judge, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Lagoa for the Florida Supreme Court. Stemberger praised her "conservative judicial philosophy."

In addition to the group's anti-LGBTQ history, Pompeo's decision to speak at the gala presents potential ethics issues. Government officials can speak at fundraising events if activities are consistent with their agency's mission, but experts say Pompeo cannot use this justification.

"I honestly can't imagine how it could be in an official capacity to raise funds for this organization," Kathleen Clark, a government ethics scholar, told ABC News. "It's so far afield from the State Department's function."

This wouldn't be the first time Pompeo flirted with ethics violations. In August, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington accused Pompeo of violating the Hatch Act by giving a videotaped speech to Republican National Convention while on a diplomatic mission to Israel.

As the country's top diplomat, Pompeo has abandoned ethical guidelines by going to a number of political events ahead of the election, including giving a speech in Wisconsin last month. While Pompeo did not explicitly tell voters to cast their ballot for Trump in his speech, Democrats have questioned whether these speaking events violate the law.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.