The White House has been ridiculed for suggesting that Vice President Mike Pence is not ant-gay because he is meeting Ireland’s Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Leo Varadkar, who is gay.
Pence is currently visiting Ireland, and on Tuesday he and Second Lady Karen Pence had lunch with Varadkar and his partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett, prior to a joint press conference between Pence and Varadkar.
“For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland,” Judd Deere, White House deputy press secretary and special assistant to the President, tweeted on Monday.
For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland. 🇮🇪 @merrionstreet pic.twitter.com/Cj5kMpln0U
— Judd Deere (@JuddPDeere45) September 3, 2019
Deere’s tweet was widely criticized by LGBTQ people and organizations, who refuted the idea that simply meeting with gay people proved a lack of anti-LGBTQ animosity.
“For those who think Mike Pence isn’t anti-gay, let me remind you that as Governor of Indiana, he pushed anti-LGBTQ policies so widely criticized that a corporate boycott of the state lost it tens of millions in revenue and made Pence the most unpopular governor in America,” Charlotte Clymer, rapid response press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted.
LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD issued a rebuttal to Deere’s assertion that meeting with a gay person meant Pence wasn’t anti-gay.
“We can’t believe we have to say this but simply meeting with a gay person doesn’t erase Pence’s long history of attacking LGBTQ people through policy, legislation, and rhetoric. Nice try though,” GLAAD tweeted, adding a link to the organizations tracker of Pence’s anti-LGBTQ actions and statements.
Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg, similarly criticized Deere for his assertion.
“I’ve sat at tables with people who would gladly deny me the right to marry, who openly support conversion therapy, and who adamantly believe being gay is a choice,” Buttigieg tweeted. “Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal.”
Pence has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, including saying in June that Donald Trump banning American embassies from flying LGBTQ Pride flags during Pride Month was “the right decision.”
In a statement on his congressional campaign website in 2000, he argued for resources to be directed away from “organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus” and instead go towards “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
As governor of Indiana, Pence supported the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which allowed businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
In addition, Pence opposes same-sex marriage, once telling Congress it would bring “societal collapse.” He opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And he opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have banned discrimination against people based on sexuality.
In 2017, a New Yorker column alleged that Trump joked about Pence wanting to “hang” every gay person.
Pete Buttigieg has previously pushed back against the vice president’s bigotry, telling CNN’s New Day in April that Pence uses religion “as an excuse to harm other people.”