More than 2,000 people turned up to celebrate Pride in Mike Pence’s hometown
More than 2,000 people celebrated LGBT equality in the hometown of Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday.
Erin Bailey, an 18-year-old high school student from Columbus, Indiana, organised the Columbus Pride festival in an effort to prove that Pence’s notoriously anti-LGBT views do not represent all of his hometown.
The community turned out in force to celebrate the town’s LGBT community over the weekend, despite its most famous resident’s beliefs.
More than 2,000 people attended the Columbus Pride festival – roughly 5 percent of the town’s population.
The town was coated in Pride flags for the event, as LGBT people and allies flooded the streets to celebrate love.
Pence was apparently too busy to attend the festival, although it was attended by Mike Hot-Pence – a Pence impersonator who wears tight hot pants.
The impersonator, real name Glen Pannell, posed for photos with many Columbus residents while collecting donations for the LGBT Indiana Youth Group – raising a total of $658 to help young queer kids.
He wrote: “Last year Erin Bailey had a vision. She didn’t want Mike Pence to represent Columbus, Indiana. She wanted Columbus to represent Columbus.
“She imagined a party downtown—the city’s first-ever Pride Festival—with some good food and info booths, live music and drag performances. She wanted the event to be joyful and inclusive and diverse.
“Erin had her party crashed in the best possible way. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people showed up to celebrate.”
He added: “What began as a high school student’s senior project had become an historic occasion. I was lucky to be there and the smile on my face has lasted ever since.
“I hit the street in my rainbow tie and my short shorts, and I shook my can for Indiana Youth Group, a nonprofit organization that provides support, programs and events to build caring communities for LGBTQ youth in Indiana.
“Hoosiers have mighty big hearts because they sent me home with $658.
“Thank you Erin and thank you Indiana for turning Columbus into a big beautiful rainbow dot on your state map.”
The event also featured performances from local drag acts as well as community stalls, with activists rallying in support of equality.
Bailey had originally planned the event as a class project, and initially sought permission for a small-scale event on one city street.
However, the event grew in scale due to support from the local community. It eventually stretched over two city blocks.
Bailey told KSHB: “We’ve never had anything like this in Columbus and we’re such a town with diversity and we have such a great community.
“I thought that I should do something like this for it.”
A hardline evangelical who has not supported a single LGBT reform across nearly two decades in politics, Pence has one of the worst records on equality of any US leader since Ronald Reagan.
Pence is notorious for once suggesting that HIV prevention funding should be drained in order to fund state-sponsored ‘gay cure’ therapy.
On a 2000 Congressional campaign website, he wrote: “Congress should support the reauthorisation 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.”
In Congress, he voted against hate crime laws, gay people serving in the military, and discrimination protections for LGBT people.
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.”
Pence 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.”
He then said: “My position … 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.”
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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,” he said. “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.