Brownback supported the 2007 Iraq War troop surge and has also voiced his support for Israel. He opposes same-sex marriage and describes himself as pro-life. As Governor, Brownback signed into law the largest income tax cut in Kansas' history, eliminating state income taxes for business profits realized as non-wage income, mainly affecting limited liability companies (LLCs), S corporations, and sole proprietorships. Brownback turned down a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set up an insurance exchange as part of the federal health care reform law, signed a bill that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selection abortions, and declared that life begins at fertilization. The income tax cut generated a substantial budget deficit, affecting core government service, particularly in education, and led many former and current Republican officials to criticize his leadership in the run-up to the 2014 gubernatorial election and endorse his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis. Polls taken in September 2016 gave Brownback an approval rating of 23%, the lowest rating of all 50 governors in the United States. Brownback was reelected in a close race with a plurality, a margin of 3.7%.
On July 26, 2017, the White House issued a statement that Brownback would be nominated as the new U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
Sam Brownback was born on September 12, 1956, in Garnett, Kansas, to Nancy (Cowden) and Glen Robert Brownback. He was raised in a farming family in Parker, Kansas. Some of Brownback's German-American ancestors settled in Kansas after leaving Pennsylvania following the Civil War. Throughout his youth, Brownback was involved the FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America), serving as president of his local and state FFA chapters, and as national FFA vice president from 1976 to 1977.
While at Kansas State University, Brownback was elected student body president and became a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity. After graduating from college in 1979, he spent about a year working as a radio broadcaster for the now-defunct KSAC farm department, hosting a weekly half-hour show. Brownback received his J.D. from the University of Kansas in 1982.
Brownback was an attorney in Manhattan, Kansas, before becoming the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture in 1986. In 1990, he was accepted into the White House Fellow program and detailed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from 1990 to 1991. Brownback then returned to Kansas to resume his position as Secretary of Agriculture and remained in that position until 1993. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and ran in the 1996 special election for the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Bob Dole, beating appointed Republican Sheila Frahm.
Sheila Frahm was appointed to fill the seat of U.S. Senator Bob Dole when Dole resigned in 1996 to campaign for president. Brownback defeated Frahm in the 1996 Republican primary and went on to win the general election against Democrat Jill Docking. In 1998 Brownback was elected to a full six-year term, defeating Democrat Paul Feleciano. He won reelection in the 2004 Senate election with 69% of the vote, defeating his Democratic challenger, Lee Jones, a former Washington, D.C. lobbyist.
Brownback was a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee (where he chaired the Subcommittee on District of Columbia when the Republicans were in the majority), the Joint Economic Committee, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, which he at one time chaired. The Helsinki Commission monitors compliance with international agreements reached in cooperation with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
In 2000, Brownback and Congressman Chris Smith led the effort to enact the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. President Clinton signed the legislation in October 2000. According to Christianity Today, the stronger enforcement increased the number of U.S. federal trafficking cases eightfold in the five years after enactment.
As of August 12, 2007, in the 110th Session of Congress, Brownback had missed 123 votes due to campaigning (39.7 percent) – surpassed only by Tim Johnson (D) of South Dakota who due to a critical illness had missed 100% of the votes of the 110th Session, and John McCain (R) of Arizona with 149 votes missed due to campaigning (48.1 percent).
As of April 2012, Brownback had an approval rating of 34 percent according to a Survey USA Poll. A Republican polling company found his approval rating to be 51 percent in May 2012. In November 2015, Brownback had an approval rating of 26 percent according to a Morning Consult poll, the lowest among all governors in the United States.
On April 1, 2010, news sources reported that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had urged an ethics investigation into a possible violation of the Senate's gifts rule by Republican senators lodging in a townhome owned by C Street Center, Inc., in turn owned by Christian-advocacy group The Fellowship. According to the report, Brownback, three additional senators, and four U.S. representatives were staying in the townhome. CREW alleged that the property, rented out for $950 a month per person, was being let well under the rate of similar lodging in the neighborhood.
Brownback supporters argued that the rooms rented out at C Street were not the equivalent of individual apartments with private bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms. The lawmakers share communal space. Senator Tom Coburn's spokesman John Hart told The Hill: "Anyone who has spent 10 minutes on Craigslist would realize that C Street residents pay fair-market value," Hart said. "Residents at the [C Street] boarding house have one bedroom. Most share a bathroom. All pay for their own meals and share personal space with the other residents and guests. They even share the remote … they fight over their favorite channel." In addition, Hart stated that there are several Craigslist ads that demonstrate that $950 is fair market value for a room on Capitol Hill.Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Ranking Member)
Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet
Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Energy
Subcommittee on National Parks
Subcommittee on Water and Power (Ranking Member)
Committee on Foreign Relations
Special Committee on Aging
Joint Economic Committee
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
On December 4, 2006, Brownback formed an exploratory committee, the first step toward candidacy, and announced his presidential bid the next day. His views placed him in the social conservative wing of the Republican party, and he stressed his fiscal conservatism. "I am an economic, a fiscal, a social and a compassionate conservative", he said in December 2006. On January 20, 2007, in Topeka, he announced that he was running for President in 2008. On February 22, 2007, a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports held that three percent of likely primary voters would support Brownback.
On August 11, 2007, Brownback finished third in the Ames Straw Poll with 15.3 percent of all votes cast. Fundraising and visits to his website declined dramatically after this event, as many supporters had predicted Brownback would do much better, and speculation began that the candidate was considering withdrawing from the campaign. This sentiment increased after his lackluster performance in the GOP presidential debate of September 5, broadcast from New Hampshire by Fox News Channel. He dropped out of the race on October 18, 2007, citing a lack of funds. He formally announced his decision on October 19. He later endorsed John McCain for president.
In 2008, Brownback acknowledged he was considering running for governor in 2010. In January 2009, Brownback officially filed the paperwork to run for governor.
Polling agency Rasmussen Reports found that Brownback led his then-likely Democratic opponent, Tom Holland, by 31 points in May 2010.
On June 1, 2010, Brownback named Kansas state Senator Jeff Colyer as his running mate.
On November 2, 2010, Brownback won over Holland with 63.3% of the vote, replacing Governor Mark Parkinson, who was sworn in after former Governor Kathleen Sebelius resigned from her position and accepted the appointment to US Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2009.
Two of Brownback's major stated goals were to reduce taxes and to increase spending on education.
According to a July 2016 New York Times survey, Brownback was the most unpopular governor in the country, with a 65% disapproval and 26% approval rating.
Brownback has proposed fundamental tax reform to encourage investment and generate wealth while creating new jobs. Consistent with those objectives, he also has proposed structural reforms to the state's largest budget items, school finance, Medicaid, and Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS), which have unfunded liabilities of $8.3 billion. Brownback sought to follow a "red state model", passing conservative social and economic policies.
Brownback signed three anti-abortion bills in 2011. In April 2011, he signed a bill banning abortion after 21 weeks, and a bill requiring that a doctor get a parent's notarized signature before providing an abortion to a patient younger than 18. In May 2011, Brownback approved a bill prohibiting insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of general health plans unless the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life. The law also prohibits any health-insurance exchange in Kansas established under the federal Affordable Care Act from offering coverage for abortions other than to save a woman’s life.
A Kansas budget passed with Brownback's approval in 2011 blocked Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri from receiving family planning funds from the state. The funding amounted to about $330,000 a year. A judge has blocked the budget provision, ordered Kansas to begin funding the organization again, and agreed with Planned Parenthood that it was being unfairly targeted. In response, the state filed an appeal seeking to overturn the judge's decision. Brownback has defended anti-abortion laws in Kansas, including the Planned Parenthood defunding. "You can’t know for sure what all comes out of that afterwards, but it was the will of the Legislature and the people of the state of Kansas", Brownback said.
In May 2012, Brownback signed the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act, which "will allow pharmacists to refuse to provide drugs they believe might cause an abortion".
In April 2013, Brownback signed a bill that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selection abortions and declared that life begins at fertilization. The law notes that any rights suggested by the language are limited by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
On April 7, 2015, Brownback signed The Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, which bans the most common technique used for second-trimester abortions. This made Kansas the first state to do so.
Brownback tried to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission by executive order; however, the Kansas state legislature defied Brownback by restoring $689,000 in appropriations. Brownback responded by vetoing government funding for the Kansas Arts Commission in May 2011, making Kansas the first state to de-fund its arts agency. The commission was created in 1966. The decision has been one of his most controversial during his tenure as governor, generating opposition from Kansas arts leaders and enthusiasts around the state. The National Endowment for the Arts informed Kansas that without a funded state arts agency, it would not receive a planned $700,000 federal grant.
In April 2014, Brownback signed a controversial school finance bill that eliminated mandatory due process hearings, which were previously required to fire experienced teachers. "The bill also allows school districts to hire unlicensed teachers for science and math classes. And it creates a tax break for corporations that donate to private school scholarship funds." The resulting cuts in funding caused districts to shut down the school year early.
In August 2011, Brownback announced he was declining a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set up an insurance exchange as part of the federal health care reform law. In May 2011, Brownback had directed the state's insurance commissioner to slow the implementation timeline for the exchange development. Upon announcing the refusal of the budgeted grant money for the state, his office stated, "There is much uncertainty surrounding the ability of the federal government to meet its already budgeted future spending obligations. Every state should be preparing for fewer federal resources, not more. To deal with that reality Kansas needs to maintain maximum flexibility. That requires freeing Kansas from the strings attached to the Early Innovator Grant." The move was unanimously supported by the delegates of the state party central committee at its August 2011 meeting, but a The New York Times editorial criticized Brownback for turning down the grant which could have helped ease the state's own budget: "Instead of letting Kansas design its own model program for an online computer exchange to help people choose among health insurance providers, Mr. Brownback’s rebuff increases the likelihood that the state must design one at its own expense or see federal officials create an exchange, as required under the new law."
Brownback also signed into law the Health Care Freedom Act, based on model legislation published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Brownback was the only other governor to attend Governor Rick Perry's prayer event in August 2011. About 22,000 people attended the rally, and Brownback and Perry were the only elected officials to speak. The decision resulted in some controversy and newspaper editorials demonstrating disappointment in his attendance of the rally.
In May 2012, Brownback signed into law one of the largest income tax cuts in Kansas' history. Brownback described the tax cuts as a live experiment, stating that "[on] taxes, you need to get your overall rates down, and you need to get your social manipulation out of it, in my estimation, to create growth. We’ll see how it works. We’ll have a real live experiment."
The law eliminates non-wage income taxes for the owners of 191,000 businesses, and cuts individual's income tax rates. The income tax cuts would provide US$231 million in tax relief in its first year, growing to US$934 million after six years. A forecast from the Legislature’s research staff indicated that a budget shortfall will emerge by 2014 and will grow to nearly US$2.5 billion by July 2018. The cuts were based on model legislation published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
In an op-ed dated May 2014 in The Wall Street Journal, titled "A Midwest Renaissance Rooted in the Reagan Formula", Brownback compared his tax cut policies with those of Ronald Reagan, and announced a "prosperous future" for Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, by having elected the economic principles that Reagan laid out in 1964.
The act has received criticism for shifting the tax burden from wealthy Kansans to low- and moderate-income workers, with the top income tax rate dropping by 25%. Under Brownback, Kansas also lowered the sales tax and eliminated a tax on small businesses. The tax cuts helped contribute to Moody's downgrading of the state's bond rating in 2014. They also contributed to the S&P Ratings' credit downgrade from AA+ to AA in August 2014 due to a budget that analysts described as structurally unbalanced. As of June 2014, the state has fallen far short of projected tax collections, receiving $369 million instead of the planned-for $651 million.
The tax cuts and the effect on the economy of Kansas, received considerable criticism in the media, including Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times, the editorial board of the Washington Post, The New Republic, and the New York Times who described Brownback's "conservative experiment" as a laboratory for policies that are "too far to the right", and that as a result, more than 100 current and former Republican elected officials endorsed his opponent in the 2014 gubernatorial race, Democrat Paul Davis. Grover Norquist defended the tax cuts as a model for the nation.
In October 2013, Kansas state representative Paul Davis, the Democratic minority leader of the Kansas House of Representatives, announced he would challenge Brownback in the 2014 Kansas gubernatorial election.
In July 2014, more than 100 Kansas Republican officials endorsed his Democratic opponent Davis. These Kansas Republicans said their concern was related to deep cuts in education and other government services as well as the tax cuts that have left the state with a major deficit.
Tim Keck, chief of staff of Brownback's running mate, Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer, unearthed and publicized a 1998 police report that noted that Davis, 26 and unmarried at the time, had been briefly detained during the raid of a strip club, where he had been taken by his new boss at a law firm that represented the club. Davis was found to have no involvement in the cause for the raid and quickly allowed to leave. The incident and its publication were seen as particularly advantageous for Brownback, who until then had trailed badly in polling, as it could be expected to become the focus of a typical 30-second campaign ad used to characterize his opponent. Responding to criticism of Keck's involvement in the campaign, Brownback spokesman Paul Milburn commented that it was legal to use taxpayer-paid staff to campaign, responding directly to the controversy, saying, "Paul Davis must have spent too much time in VIP rooms at strip clubs back in law school...", because he "... should know full well that the law allows personal staff of the governor’s office to work on campaign issues." In Kansas, however, getting records about crimes that law enforcement has investigated is typically difficult. The Legislature closed those records to the public over three decades earlier: If members of the public desire incident reports and investigative files, they normally have to sue to obtain them, cases sometimes costing $25,000 or more. Media law experts were amazed after learning Montgomery County's sheriff released non-public investigative files from 1998 with just a records request. “That is unusual,” said Mike Merriam, media lawyer for the Kansas Press Association. “They have denied releasing records routinely over and over and over again.” Brownback's campaign capitalized on the 16-year-old incident.
Brownback was reelected with a plurality, defeating Davis by a 3.69 percent margin. His appointment of Tim Keck as Secretary of the Department of Aging and Disability was confirmed on January 18, 2017.
In 2017, it was reported that Brownback was being considered by President Donald Trump to be appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. for Food and Agriculture in Rome and for U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in Washington, DC. On July 26, 2017, the White House issued a statement that Brownback would be nominated as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
Brownback opposes abortion in all cases except when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger. He has a 100 percent pro-life voting record according to the National Right to Life Committee. Brownback also supports parental notification for minors who seek an abortion and opposes partial birth abortion. Brownback was personally anti-abortion though politically pro-choice during the early days of his career. Brownback has more recently stated, "I see it as the lead moral issue of our day, just like slavery was the lead moral issue 150 years ago." On May 3, 2007, when asked his opinion of repealing Roe v. Wade, Brownback said, "It would be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom."
In 2007, Brownback stated he "could support a pro-choice nominee" to the presidency, because "this is a big coalition party."
Brownback has said he believes private donations should fund arts and culture in the state. In May 2011, Brownback eliminated by executive order and then subsequently vetoed government funding for the Kansas Arts Commission in response to state defiance of his executive order, making Kansas the first state to defund its arts commission. The commission was created in 1966.
Brownback said in an interview, "I am not a supporter of a death penalty, other than in cases where we cannot protect the society and have other lives at stake." In a speech on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he questioned the current use of the death penalty as potentially incongruent with the notion of a "culture of life", and suggested it be employed in a more limited fashion. He voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder and voted NO on maintaining the right of habeas corpus in death penalty appeals. These two votes occurred before his conversion to Catholicism in 2002 – since his conversion, he has echoed Pope John Paul II's remarks against the death penalty.
Brownback visited refugee camps in Sudan in 2004 and returned to write a resolution labeling the Darfur conflict as genocide, and has been active on attempting to increase U.S. efforts to resolve the situation short of military intervention. He is an endorser of the Genocide Intervention Network, which called him a "champion of Darfur" in its Darfur scorecard, primarily for his early advocacy of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act.
He was rated 100 percent by the US Chamber of Commerce, indicating a pro-business voting record.
He has consistently supported a low tax and spend policy for government. As governor he urged a flattening of the income tax to spur economic growth in Kansas. In December 2005, Brownback advocated using Washington, DC, as a laboratory for a flat tax. He voted Yes on a Balanced-budget constitutional amendment. He opposed the Estate Tax.
He was rated 100 percent by the Cato Institute, indicating a pro-free trade voting record.
In 2005, the organization Republicans for Environmental Protection ("REP") gave Brownback a grade of 7 percent for the 107th United States Congress, but in 2006, increased the rating to 26%. Senator Brownback supported an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman, (D-NM), requiring at least 10 percent of electricity sold by utilities to originate from renewable resources. He has also supported conservation of rare felids & canids. He has voted for increased funding for international conservation of cranes. Brownback has supported oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Gulf of Mexico, as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil. He has promoted the use of renewable energy such as nuclear, wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources to achieve energy independence.
Brownback has stated that he is a devout believer in a higher power and rejects macroevolution as an exclusive explanation for the development over time of new species from older ones. Brownback favors giving teachers the freedom to use intelligent design to critique evolutionary theory as part of the Teach the Controversy approach:
There's intelligence involved in the overall of creation ... I don't think we're really at the point of teaching this in the classroom. I think what we passed in the U.S. Senate in 2002 the Santorum Amendment is really what we should be doing, and that is that you teach the controversy, you teach what is fact is fact, and what is theory is theory, and you move from that proceedings, rather than from teaching some sort of different thought. And this, I really think that's the area we should concentrate on at the present time, is teaching the controversy.
He has supported the Discovery Institute, hub of the intelligent design movement, and has argued extensively on their behalf during Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns such as the Santorum Amendment, Teach the Controversy, and against the denial of tenure at Iowa State University to Institute Fellow Guillermo Gonzalez. The university insisted that Gonzalez was denied due to sub-par research and academic performance, and not for his teaching intelligent design.
Brownback opposes a single-payer, government-run health-care system. He supports increased health insurance portability, eliminating insurance rejection due to pre-existing medical conditions, a cap on frivolous malpractice lawsuits, the implementation of an electronic medical records system, an emphasis on preventative care, and tax benefits aimed at making health-care insurance more affordable for the uninsured and targeted to promote universal access. He opposes government-funded elective abortions in accordance with the Hyde Amendment. He has been a strong supporter of legislation to establish a national childhood cancer database and an increase in funding for autism research. Brownback supports negotiating bulk discounts on Medicare drug benefits to reduce prices. In 2007, Senators Brownback and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sponsored an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007. The amendment created a prize as an incentive for companies to invest in new drugs and vaccines for neglected tropical diseases. It awards a transferable "Priority Review Voucher" to any company that obtains approval for a treatment for a neglected tropical disease. This provision adds to the market-based incentives available for the development of new medicines for developing world diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and African sleeping sickness. The prize was initially proposed by Duke University faculty Henry Grabowski, Jeffrey Moe, and David Ridley in their 2006 Health Affairs paper: "Developing Drugs for Developing Countries."
Brownback supports a bill that would introduce price transparency to the U.S. health care industry, as well as a bill which would require the disclosure of Medicare payment rate information.
On December 16, 2006, Brownback gave an interview to the Christian Post, stating: "We can get to this goal of eliminating deaths by cancer in ten years."
Brownback had a Senate voting record that has tended to support higher legal immigration levels and strong refugee protection. Brownback was cosponsor of a 2005 bill of Ted Kennedy and John McCain's which would have created a legal path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already present. On June 26, 2007, Brownback voted in favor of S. 1639, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. Brownback supports increasing numbers of legal immigrants, building a fence on Mexican border, and the reform bill "if enforced." While he initially supported giving guest workers a path to citizenship, Brownback eventually voted "Nay" on June 28, 2007. Brownback has said that he supports immigration reform because the Bible says to welcome the stranger.
On April 25, 2016, Brownback issued executive orders barring state agencies from facilitating refugee resettlement from Syria and other majority Muslim countries, in concert with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). He maintained they presented security risks. His decision entirely removed the state from the program. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement served notice that it would instead work directly with local refugee resettlement organizations. Mark Greenberg of the federal Administration for Children and Families said, “If the state were to cease participating in the refugee resettlement program, it would have no effect on the placement of refugees by the State Department in Kansas, or the ORR-funded benefits they can receive." Although states are legally entitled to withdraw from the program, the initial withdrawal for claimed security reasons, is the first in the nation. Micah Kubic, the Kansas ACLU's executive director said Brownback’s policy removed the state from the process of protecting those seeking safety jeopardized by their religious beliefs, despite such refugees receiving thorough screenings: “It’s very sad and very unfortunate that the governor is allowing fear to get in the way of hospitality and traditional Kansas values.” Earlier in 2016, Brownback directed state agencies to use the State Department’s list of state-sponsors of terrorism to exclude refugees whose presence might constitute security risks. Refugees who were fleeing danger in Iran, Sudan and Syria were signaled out for exclusion. Thanks to Brownback's initiative, Kansas would lose about $2.2 million annually that had been provided to support resettlement agencies. The state had been working with three such agencies, among them Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, to in making appropriate placements. In the seven months preceding his order, 354 refugees from all countries have been resettled in Kansas, she said, with thirteen Syrians placed in the Wichita or Kansas City areas of the state in prior sixteen months. Democratic Representative Jim Ward, from Wichita, characterized Brownback’s announcement as "a distraction," intended solely for political purposes, as Kansas faced a $290 million budget deficit.
Brownback supported a political surge coupled with the military surge of 2007 in Iraq and opposed the Democratic Party's strategy of timed withdrawal:
It does mean that there must be bipartisan agreement for our military commitment on Iraq. We cannot fight a war with the support of only one political party. And it does mean that the parties in Iraq – Sunni, Shi’a and Kurds – must get to a political agreement, to a political equilibrium. I think most people agree that a cut and run strategy does not serve our interest at all, nor those of the world, nor those of the region, nor those of the Iraqi people. So I invite my colleagues, all around, particularly on the other side of the aisle, to indicate what level of commitment they can support.
In May 2007 Brownback stated, "We have not lost war; we can win by pulling together" He voted Yes on authorizing use of military force against Iraq, voted No on requiring on-budget funding for Iraq, not emergency funding and voted No on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007. He has also condemned anti-Muslim bigotry in name of anti-terrorism.
On June 7, 2007, Brownback voted against the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 when that bill came up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Brownback sits. (The bill was passed out of the committee by a vote of 11 to 8.) The bill aims to restore habeas corpus rights revoked by the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
In October 2007, Brownback announced his support for a plan designed by Benny Elon, chairman of Israel's right-wing NU/NRP party. Elon's positions include dismantling the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas and rejecting a two-state solution. The plan calls for the complete annexation of the West Bank by Israel, and the deportation of its Arab population to a new Palestinian state in present-day Jordan.
In 1996, as a member of the House of Representatives, Brownback voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the union between a man and a woman. Brownback has stated that he believes homosexuality to be immoral as a violation of both Catholic doctrine and natural law. He has voted against gay rights, receiving zeros in four of the last five scorecards as a U.S. senator from the Human Rights Campaign. He opposes both same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions. He opposes adding sexual orientation and gender identity to federal laws that address hate crime. He has declined to state a position on homosexual adoption, although a candidate for chair of the Kansas Republican Party claims he was blackballed by political operatives affiliated with Brownback for not opposing homosexual adoption. Brownback supported "don't ask, don't tell," the U.S. government's ban on openly homosexual people in the military. Brownback has associated with organizations such as the Family Research Council and American Family Association. Both organizations are listed as anti-gay hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2003, Brownback worked with Alliance for Marriage and Traditional Values Coalition to introduce a Senate bill containing the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would federally prohibit same-sex marriage in the United States. The bill was a response to Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts state court decision finding that same-sex couples had the right to marry in Massachusetts. In reaction to the Goodridge decision, Brownback stated that same-sex marriage threatened the health of American families and culture.
In 2006, Brownback blocked the confirmation of federal judicial nominee Janet T. Neff because she had attended a same-sex commitment ceremony. At first, he agreed to lift the block only if Neff would recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions. Brownback later dropped his opposition.
In April 2011, Brownback began work on a Kansas government program to promote marriage, in part through grants to faith-based and secular social service organizations. In June 2011, the administration revised contract expectations for social work organizations to promote married mother-father families. It explained the change as benefiting children.
In January 2012, Brownback did not include Kansas's sodomy law in a list of unenforced and outdated laws that the legislature should repeal. Gay rights advocates had asked his administration to recommend its repeal because the law has been unenforceable since the Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003.
In February 2012, the Brownback administration supported a religious freedom bill that would have stopped cities, school districts, universities, and executive agencies from having nondiscrimination laws or policies that covered sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2013, after oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court case striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, Brownback publicly reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions to review several federal appellate decisions overturning state bans on same-sex marriage. The court's actions favored repeal of Kansas's ban on same-sex marriage because two of the appeals (Kitchen v. Herbert and Bishop v. Oklahoma) originated in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which includes Kansas. In response, Brownback defended Kansas's same-sex marriage ban as being supported by a majority of Kansas voters and criticized "activist judges" for "overruling" the people of Kansas.
On February 10, 2015, Brownback issued an executive order rescinding protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers that was put into place by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius eight years previously. In the edition of Feb 11 of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart suggested that an internet campaign similar to the campaign for the neologism "santorum" could introduce a sex-related neologism "brownbacking" in order to embarrass Brownback.
Brownback supports adult stem cell research and cord blood stem cells. Brownback appeared with three children adopted from in vitro fertilization clinics to coincide with a Senate debate over the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005 to show his support for the bill and adult stem cell research. The Religious Freedom Coalition refers to children conceived through the adopted in vitro process as "snowflake children." The term, as proponents explain, is an extension of the idea that the embryos are "frozen and unique," and in that way are similar to snowflakes. Brownback supports the use of cord blood stem cell research for research and treatment. He opposes the use of embryonic stem cells in research or treatments for human health conditions.
On September 27, 2006, Brownback introduced a bill called the Truth in Video Game Rating Act (S.3935), which would regulate the rating system of computer and video games.
On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 sponsored by Brownback, a former broadcaster himself. The new law stiffens the penalties for each violation of the Act. The Federal Communications Commission will be able to impose fines in the amount of $325,000 for each violation by each station that violates decency standards. The legislation raises the fine by tenfold.
On September 3, 1997, Meredith O'Rourke, an employee of Kansas firm Triad Management Services, was deposed by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs regarding her activities and observations while providing services for the company relative to fund raising and advertising for Brownback. The deposition claims that Triad circumvented existing campaign finance laws by channeling donations through Triad, and also bypassed the campaign law with Triad running 'issue ads' during Brownback's first campaign for the Senate.
He has said he does not believe there is an inherent right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. He has, however, expressed disapproval of George W. Bush's assertions on the legality of the NSA wiretapping program.
Brownback voted to maintain current gun laws: guns sold without trigger locks. He opposes gun control.
Brownback is a lead sponsor of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 and frequently speaks out against the mail-order bride industry.
Brownback introduced into the Senate a resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 4) calling for the United States to apologize for past mistreatment of Native Americans.
Brownback's voting record on civil rights was rated 20 percent by the ACLU. He voted "yes" on ending special funding for minority and women-owned business and "yes" on recommending a Constitutional ban on flag desecration. He opposes quotas in admission to institutions of higher education. He voted "yes" on increasing penalties for drug offenses and voted "yes" on more penalties for gun and drug violations.
Brownback voted against banning chemical weapons. He voted "yes" on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act and voted "yes" on extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision. In May 2007, Brownback stated that "Iran is the lead sponsor of terrorism around the world." He supports talks and peaceful measures with Iran, but no formal diplomatic relations.
In April 2009, Brownback introduced the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 to require electronics companies to verify and disclose their sources of conflict minerals, such as cassiterite, wolframite, and tantalum. This legislation died in committee. However, measures to control the sale of conflict minerals were later included in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which Brownback voted against.
Brownback is married to Mary Brownback (née Stauffer), whose family owned and operated Stauffer Communications until its sale in 1995. They have five children: Abby, Andy, Elizabeth, Mark, and Jenna; two of their children are adopted. Brownback converted to Catholicism in 2002 but still sometimes attends an evangelical church.