Mike Pence's Record On LGBTQ+ Rights Is A Sad Sight For Pride Month
Only two years ago, the White House was bright with the colors of the rainbow, lit up in order to celebrate the momentous Supreme Court decision declaring gay marriage legal once and for all. The decision was handed down at the end of June — Pride Month — and it felt like a beacon of hope, a sign of good things to come.
Bill Clinton first established June as Gay & Lesbian Pride month in 2000 with his Proclamation 7316, according to the Library of Congress. While George W. Bush didn't acknowledge Pride Month during his eight years in office, Barack Obama acknowledged the designated celebration every single year.
Pence is, of late, most famous for calling his wife “Mother” and refusing to dine alone with women. But the career politician has, over the years, made headlines for his consistently anti-LGBTQ+ views.
As we hit the middle of Pride Month — held in June to commemorate the activists who began the modern gay rights movement at the Stonewall Riots — we're rounding up the ways in which Pence has consistently voted against rights for the LGBTQ+ community as a pressing reminder of why we still need to push for acceptance and rights.
2000: Campaigns To Use HIV/AIDS Funding For Programs That “Change Their Sexual Behavior”
In 2000, Pence ran for a House seat representing Indiana's Second District. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski uncovered an archived version of his campaign website.
Among other policy promises, the site included stances that Congress should oppose equal legal status for gay marriage and that Congress should oppose defining the LGBTQ+ community as a protected class similar to women and ethnic minorities.
The site additionally stated that Congress should only support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act — the largest federally funded resource for those living with HIV/AIDS — if money was “no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus” and instead directed toward “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
While this is not an explicit statement of support for conversion therapy, there is a long, established history of homophobia couched in the way HIV is publicly discussed, and including the conditional support for an HIV/AIDS resource in an otherwise explicitly anti-LGBTQ+ policy proposal speaks volumes for the context of the proposal.
2006: Supports Constitutional Amendment That Would Define Marriage As Between One Man, One Woman
As just a wee House Representative (this time for Indiana's Sixth District), Pence led the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus that, in 2006, released a legislative agenda that sought to, among other things, ban gay marriage and legally define marriage as between one man and one woman.
In his speech, then-Rep. Pence stated, “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”
Taken on its own, it reads a bit melodramatic, if hollow. But given that he was giving an impassioned speech demanding that marriage be defined as between one man and one woman, there's no skirting around the real meaning behind the “deterioration” of marriage and collapse of society.
2007: Votes Against Employment Non-Discrimination Act
While individual states had non-discrimination laws that covered LGBTQ+ individuals on the books, it was not federally mandated. So in 2007, a bill was introduced to Congress that would offer protections to LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.
Pence voted no — and even made a speech, stating that “this sets up something of a constitutional conflict between the right to religious freedom in the workplace and another person's newly created right to sue you for practicing your faith or acknowledging your faith in the workplace.”
He even said that, if the bill passed, someone with a Bible on their desk would be at risk of being sued by a “homosexual employee.”
2009: Votes Against Hate Crimes Expansion
In 2009, an expansion to the 1969 Federal Hate Crimes Act was introduced to Congress. The bill proposed protections to individuals based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It additionally removed the requirement that protected classes be engaging in federally protected activity (such as voting).
2010: Votes Against Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal
Also included in his 2000 campaign website was a tidbit about LGBTQ+ individuals serving in the military. He stated that he was against Don't Ask, Don't Tell — but not because it discriminated against openly gay individuals.
Rather, he thought it condoned gay people serving in the military. Pence stated, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion.”
Unsurprisingly, he came out against Obama's attempt to repeal DADT, because it would have allowed LGBTQ+ individuals to serve openly. He even — you guessed it — made a speech.
2015: Allows Indiana Businesses To Turn Away LGBTQ+ Customers In The Name of Religious Freedom
Surrounded by known anti-LGBTQ+ advocates, then-Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which effectively allowed Indiana businesses to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The Indiana law allows businesses to cite their religious beliefs as cause for denying customers.
Met with intense criticism and a loss of state revenue to the tune of $60 million due to boycotts, Pence later walked back the original bill and added an amendment stating LGBTQ+ individuals would be protected from discrimination.
But the timing of the bill was nonetheless suspicious, given that Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which turned away a lesbian couple and later doxxed them, was heavily fined for discrimination and causing emotional harm to the couple.
2016: Rejects Obama's Transgender Bathroom Directive
As one of the first governors to react to Obama's transgender bathroom access directive, Pence strongly opposed the directive, stating that it should be left up to states and individuals schools to decide what's right for students.
During the presidential campaign, Pence said Trump would “resolve” the issue. Trump signed an executive order overturning protections for trans students in February 2017.
LGBTQ+ advocates are standing by to see if the Trump administration will be passing future laws and orders that could hurt the community.
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