Mike Pence and the LGBT+ Community

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

How the man one step away from the White House is the biggest threat to the LGBT+ community.

President Donald Trump has, during his time as US commander-in-chief, managed to offend and disgust various communities, international groups and nationalities. However, where President Trump is beaten in terms of discrimination against LGBT+ people is when he is compared to his Vice-President, Mike Pence.

The former Governor of Indiana, Mr Pence, has been no stranger to controversy throughout his time in government due to his record on voting on gay rights, as well as his hesitancy to openly condemn acts of homophobia and bigotry. Since Mr Pence was selected by Donald Trump to be his running mate before the 2016 presidential election, he has faced strong criticism from the LGBT+ community and opponents for his advocacy of what is perceived as a homophobic agenda. Most notably, this has been aimed at the Vice-President’s support for gay conversion therapy during his time in Congress, an accusation that Mr Pence vehemently denies. However, the evidence in terms of what legislation that the Vice-President has voted for makes this denial seem somewhat feeble.

To many, his attitude towards the LGBT+ community and gay conversion therapy was made clear in his 2000 campaign for a US House of Representatives seat. Whilst the Pence campaign denied advocating gay conversion therapy, a campaign statement declared that, ‘Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour’. Mr Pence has also been a staunch supporter of James Dobson, a man who he refers to as a mentor. Mr Dobson founded the company Focus on the Family which has a long history of promoting gay conversion therapy as well as holding a conference to understand and de-legitimise homosexuality. In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire’, Mr Dobson also referred to the ‘truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable’, which is a further sign of the homophobic agenda that remains engrained in parts of US religious culture. The fact that Mike Pence has not only shared a stage with Mr Dobson, but has also stated that the founder of Focus on the Family is a mentor to him, is certainly a concern to the LGBT+ community.

In 2015, Mr Pence signed Indiana’s so-called religious objections law whilst Governor of Indiana. This allowed people in the state to exercise a legal defence that their religious beliefs had been, or are likely to be in the future, violated. However, critics deemed this bill as a way for the state to persecute against the LGBT+ community, and the backlash would cause Mr Pence to amend the bill, preventing any legal discrimination. However, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Mr Pence refused to answer as to whether he thought it was right that the LGBT+ community should be discriminated against. Instead of providing a straight answer, he simply stated that ‘Hoosiers don’t discriminate’, a “hoosier” being a term for someone who hails from the state of Indiana. This enabled Mr Pence to not only stay true to his beliefs but also frame it so he could not be accused of condoning discrimination against LGBT+ people.

Mr Pence also found controversy in 2006, when he supported an amendment that would have defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. By allowing same-sex marriage, this would have led to a ‘societal collapse’ according to the current Vice-President, then the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee. In 2007, he voted against a law preventing discrimination against LGBT+ persons in the workplace,  stating that it threatened ‘religion and freedom in the workplace’. His personal website has also discriminated against the LGBT+ who serve in the military, describing homosexuality as ‘incompatible with military service’. Mike Pence’s constant support of law that dismisses the LGBT+ community from being part of a working society and the military is again, a huge concern, as it shows elements of cultural backwardness. The threat he presents is even more concerning when one considers that Mr Pence is only an impeachment away from the White House, something that has become more possible since the Democrats took back the House in the mid-terms in November.

It’s therefore apparent from a closer study of what Mike Pence has advocated and which organisations he has supported, that the current Vice-President of the United States has not openly condemned bigotry in terms of discrimination against the LGBT+ community. His opinions of the LGBT+ community are clearly no secret to President Trump, who reportedly said of Pence being ‘the guy who wants to hang them all’ when a government meeting turned to the issue of gay rights. Mr Pence’s denial of these accusations are subsequently very hard to believe when considering that not only do his colleagues at the White House believe him to be homophobic, but he has constantly campaigned for laws that limit the role that the LGBT+ community have in American society, or against which outlaws gender and sexual discrimination. He could therefore be argued as being the biggest threat to the LGBT+ community due to his position in global politics and his lack of clarity surrounding his views on LGBT+ people.

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International Editor 2019/20

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