Gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy: Anti-LGBT VP Mike Pence is ‘bad fit’ to lead Winter Olympics delegation
Gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy has hit out at Vice President Mike Pence again, attacking his presence at the Winter Olympics.
Ahead of his trip to South Korea this month as head of the Winter Olympic delegation, Pence has been making enemies among the LGBT athletes set to represent the US.
When gay figure skater Adam Rippon challenged the Vice President’s concerning stances on LGBT equality, Pence put out a statement suggesting that the athlete had misled the public.
And freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who has been at the forefront of the US delegation’s publicity campaign, also says that Pence’s presence will send a negative message.
Speaking on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, Kenworthy said Pence was a “bad fit” to lead the delegation.
He said: “It just seems such a strange choice for me, because I feel like we’re in 2018, we’re going into the Olympics – myself and Adam Rippon are the first two openly gay males competing in the [Winter] Olympics, and it’s just incredible to see how times of changed, because of people like you and athletes of the past.
“So many people have paved the way, but then to have someone leading the delegation that’s directly attacked the LGBT community, and [is part of] a cabinet in general that stands against us and has tried to do things to set us back.
“It just seems like a bad fit, and I feel like the Olympics is all about inclusion and people coming together, and it seems like it’s not really doing that.”
Kenworthy added he was looking forward to attending the games as an openly gay athlete – having been in the closet at the last Winter Olympics
He said: “I’m looking forward to everything. It’s going to be a different experience to last time around because I’m not in the closet, and I’m excited to soak it up.
“It might be my last Olympics, so I just want to meet as many athletes as I can, get to enjoy the opening and closing ceremonies, and hopefully ski the best I possibly can.
“And apparently there’s Karaoke everywhere in Korea, and I live for Karaoke.”
Kenworthy previously told USA Today that Pence’s presence will send a negative message.
He said: “I actually found out about [Pence attending] from Adam Rippon… I feel the same way as him.
“I think it’s not the person I would have expected, and I think it sends mixed messages because this is the first time we’re seeing out U.S. Olympic athletes competing in the Winter Olympics, and then we have someone leading the delegation that doesn’t support that, and doesn’t support the LGBT community, and has spoken against it. I think it doesn’t send the right message.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
Kenworthy came out in 2015 – a year on from competing at the Winter Olympics in Russia.
As such, he and Rippon will this year among the first openly gay male athletes to represent the US at a Winter Olympic games.
Speaking about LGBT representation, Kenworthy added: ” I think it’s so important. And not even just LGBT athletes, but just the LGBT community in general has been underrepresented for so many years..
“It’s new to have LGBT representation in that type of way, so I think that’s really important. It helps to be someone that any closeted young athlete, or just person in general can look up to and see someone out in their field and being successful and living their life and having good things happen for them and not having a bad experience.”
He added of the games in PyeongChang: “The fact that I am out, I think it’s going to warrant me having a better time in Korea, and really getting to experience it.
“When you’re in the closet, you can’t enjoy anything quite as much. I don’t think I had the Olympics experience I was hoping for, and now that I’m out, I’m going to really take it all in and have such a better time.”
A hardline evangelical who has not supported a single LGBT reform across nearly two decades in politics, VP Pence has one of the worst records on equality of any President or Vice President in recent memory.
Pence previously suggested that HIV prevention funding be drained in order to fund state-sponsored ‘gay cure’ therapy.
On a 2000 Congressional campaign website, he wrote: “Congress should support the reauthorization of the [HIV funding] Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”
While serving as Governor of Indiana, Pence stirred up international outrage in 2015 when he signed Indiana’s controversial ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’, giving businesses the right to discriminate against gay people on the grounds of religion.
Pence claimed the law was intended to “protect” organisations from having to provide services for same-sex weddings, saying: “I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier [Indiana citizen] of every faith.
“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack.”
He appeared unable to answer when asked whether it should be legal to fire people because of their sexuality.
In a clip, Pence was asked: “Yes or no: do you believe gay and transgender people should be able to be fired from their jobs just for that reason only?”
After an awkward ten-second silence, Pence attempted to stall, responding: “It’s a great privilege to be your Governor.”
Fudging a response, he said: “My position as I expressed in the state of the State address is that we are a state with a constitution, and as you know… that constitution has very strong safeguards for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.”
During the Presidential campaign, Pence backed plans to roll back Barack Obama’s executive protections on LGBT rights, so that “the transgender bathroom issue can be resolved with common sense at the local level”.
He said: “This is such an example of an administration that seems to have… there’s no area of our lives too small for them to want to regulate, no aspect of our constitution too large for them to ignore.
“Donald Trump and I both believe these questions can be resolved with common sense at the local level.”
“These issues are resolved in the state of Indiana whenever they come up, and they should be resolved, for the safety and well-being of our children first and foremost, their privacy and rights, and with common sense. Donald Trump and I simply believe all of these issues are best resolved at the state level, by communities.”
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He added: “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools. It’s just one more example of the heavy hand of this administration, and Donald Trump and I will stand by that common-sense people that when it comes to our kids, and the operation of our schools, those decisions should be made at the local level.
“Washington DC has no business imposing its bill and its values on communities around the nation.”
Decades of proof have not stopped Pence from attempting to rewrite his deeply anti-LGBT record, however.
He abruptly started denying his support for gay cure therapy in December 2016, one month before he was sworn in as Vice President – despite never once trying to correct public reports about his well-known views in the 16 years beforehand.