While support continues to build for the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma to become the next NASA administrator from the commercial space sector and scientists such as Paul Spudis, the lawmaker, and Navy aviator is getting opposition from an unusual quarter. According to Politico, a number of LGBT activists have decided to oppose Bridenstine’s nomination for his past positions on issues that are near and dear to them.

What has got LGBT activists riled about Bridenstine?

Bridenstine, a conservative Republican, has expressed opposition to the right to same sex marriage, adhering as he does to the traditional notion of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

He opposed the admission of LGBT people to the Boy Scouts. Bridenstine also suggested that President Obama’s executive order that would allow transgender students to use the public bathroom of the gender they identify with was “lawless federal bullying.” As a result, organizations such as GLAAD and OutServe-SLDN have decided that they will oppose Bridenstine’s nomination.

A religious test to be NASA administrator?

NASA is not an organization that is usually heavily involved in LGBT issues. The space agency’s mandate is to explore space and to advance the frontiers of science and engineering. To be sure, NASA has also proven to be a vehicle for achievement and upward mobility for formally marginalized groups. However, that phenomenon is a happy side effect of policies that regard ability and experience as more important than group identity.

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As NASA administrator, Bridenstine would be obligated to follow federal laws and regulations involving non-discrimination in employment and contracting. That policy would include LGBT people along with any other protected group.

However, it appears that Bridenstine is being subjected to a religious test for the position that he has been nominated for. Many people oppose some items on the LGBT agenda out of sincere religious conviction. Bridenstine’s private and political beliefs are being used as a disqualifier for becoming head of NASA, even though those views would not affect his conduct as administrator. The space agency has no influence whatsoever on whether or not people of the same sex have the right to marry. That issue was decided by a ruling of the Supreme Court and is now the law of the land.

One wonders if these questions are going to come up during the hearings when they finally take place. Bridenstine will likely reply that he will follow the law, as he is obligated to do, and perhaps openly wonder what these issues have to do with returning to the moon and re-establishing American dominance in space. However, it seems that identity politics in America must have their say even in this area.