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The Heritage Foundation has announced that former Vice President Mike Pence will join the organization as a distinguished visiting fellow.
A conservative think tank that has served as a pipeline for officials in past Republican presidential administrations, Heritage has previously battled against bills that seek to expand LGBTQ rights, and backed legislation that some believe is hostile towards the LGBTQ community. That includes bills that would carve out religiously-based exemptions for small business owners, government employees, and others with personal moral beliefs opposing homosexuality.
As a distinguished visiting fellow, Pence will advise Heritage experts on public policy issues, deliver a series of speeches touting conservative policy solutions, and write a monthly column for The Daily Signal, Heritage’s multimedia news outlet.
“Heritage has had a very large role in shaping the policy of the conservative movement,” Charlotte Clymer, a prominent LGBTQ advocate, writer, and consultant, told Metro Weekly in an interview. “They were the ones who brought together this unholy alliance between social conservatives and the trans-exclusionary radical feminists in the United Kingdom. And that became what has been the primary messaging strategy of the Republican Party against LGBTQ people, but specifically trans people and more specifically, trans women.
“So to see Mike Pence, who is by far the most anti-LGBTQ vice president in history, go over to Heritage to reinforce and enable their policy, it completely makes sense,” Clymer said. “And I will say this is not a retirement move. This is how Mike Pence is going to continue to have enormous influence within the conservative movement and particularly within the policy that the Republican Party pushes officially.”
Clymer added that Pence’s influence could potentially be far-reaching in terms of the views the organization adopts or the issues it prioritizes, especially with respect to LGBTQ rights — something likely to come up as Congress looks at passing the Equality Act.
That, in turn, could potentially spark debates over transgender inclusion, particularly in the area of sports, which has become the latest flashpoint in the culture war, with lawmakers in various states introducing at least 20 bills to bar transgender individuals from competing based on their gender identity.
“Even before Trump, Mike Pence was widely beloved by social conservatives,” she notes. “And Heritage is this weird animal between I would say the more, you know, kind of rabid QAnon/Trump/grassroots base and the more established country club conservative Republicans. He really kind of fits in this weird middle ground between the two. He doesn’t present as QAnon, of course. And to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think he has expressed any of those views. But he does have some pretty egregious views, especially regarding the rights of LGBTQ people.”
Barbara Simon, the head of news and campaigns for the advocacy organization GLAAD, called Pence’s pairing with Heritage a “match made in heaven.”
“[Pence and Heritage] have each demonstrated time and again their disdain for LGBTQ lives, and fought at every turn against our equal rights as Americans,” Simon said in a statement. “The former administration was stacked with at least fifty-six former Heritage staffers. Thankfully the current White House has put LGBTQ equality and acceptance back on the agenda, and removed the revolving door between the Oval Office and anti-LGBTQ hate groups.”
Although independent of Heritage, the former vice president will also be launching a podcast hosted by the Young America’s Foundation, and will become part of YAF’s campus lecture circuit once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and it becomes possible to host large-scale, in-person events, according to Politico.
“Over the course of the past four years, our team at Heritage has worked closely with members of the Trump administration on a host of policy accomplishments,” Kay C. James, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “That’s why I am excited Vice President Mike Pence will join forces with Heritage to ensure we continue to advance conservative principles and policy solutions. His allegiance to the Constitution and commitment to advancing a conservative policy agenda make him an outstanding fit for The Heritage Foundation.”
James also praised Pence as an “adrenaline shot for the entire conservative movement” and “a heroic protector and defender of the Constitution and the values that unite us as a nation,” praising many of the Trump administration’s accomplishments — such as the confirmation of three conservative Supreme Court Justices, historic tax cuts, and bans on government funding for abortions, to name a few — and vowing to defend them.
That Pence is in such high demand after leaving the White House is an indicator of the influence that the former vice president still has within the conservative movement.
Pence, who served as a U.S. Congressman and governor of Indiana prior to being sworn in as Vice President, has a long history of collaborating with Heritage over his career. Prior to his election to Congress, Pence served as president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a free-market think tank focusing on state-level issues that mirrors Heritage’s work at the national level.
“The Heritage Foundation is a flagship of the conservative movement and I am profoundly honored to join them as a distinguished visiting fellow to advance conservative policies that will benefit every American,” Pence said in a statement. “The Heritage Foundation helped shape my conservative philosophy for decades and played a pivotal role advancing conservative policies throughout the Trump Administration.
“I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with the all-star team at Heritage as we continue to take the case for a strong national defense, free markets and traditional values to policymakers across the Nation and to every American who cherishes our Heritage of Freedom.”
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving Washington State florist who was accused of violating the state's nondiscrimination law when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple's wedding.
The high court refused to grant certiorari, which would allow lawyers for the flower shop owner to argue that anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity violate the First Amendment rights of those with sincerely held beliefs opposing homosexuality or same-sex marriage. Notably, Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch indicated they would have voted to hear the case
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden praised two professional athletes -- Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, and Kumi Yokoyama, a forward for the Washington Spirit -- for coming out as LGBTQ.
The president praised the athletes for their decision to share their identities with their teammates and the larger public, noting that their decision provides an example for LGBTQ-identifying youth to look up to, reports CNN.
"To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama -- two prominent, inspiring athletes who came out this week: I'm so proud of your courage. Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today," Biden tweeted.
On Thursday evening, the Fairfax County School Board unanimously adopted an updated Student Rights and Responsibilities document that, for the first time, enumerates essential rights and protections for transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary students, as guaranteed by both the district's nondiscrimination policy and by state law.
The protections for trans students, as spelled out by the revised policy, are rooted in guarantees provided by Regulation 2603, a set of highly-detailed guidelines, adopted last year, which spell out the rights and protections that transgender and gender-expansive students in Fairfax County Public Schools are entitled to when it comes to a host of issues ranging from their use of preferred names and pronouns to updating school transcripts and records to accessing facilities that align with their gender identity.
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