7 shocking examples of Mike Pence’s brazen homophobia we need Kamala Harris to grill him on at the vice presidential debate
Mike Pence has a terrifying record on gay rights, reportedly drafted Trump’s trans military ban, and is generally regarded as an enemy of LGBT+ rights.
Trump’s terrifying rollback of LGBT+ protections went completely unchecked in his recent debate with Joe Biden, but many are hoping Harris will set the record straight as she prepares to go head-to-head with Pence Wednesday night (October 7) at the vice presidential debate.
Pence and Harris are polar opposites on most issues, but the biggest gulf between them is likely to be their views on LGBT+ people. And with the eyes of the world on the debate stage, there’s never been a better time to bring his abhorrent record to the fore.
The vice president’s well documented homophobia has arguably underscored his entire political career, but here are just a few examples we’d love to see him grilled on.
1. Mike Pence opposed marriage equality.
Pence began building momentum to ban same-sex marriage shortly before the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional in 2003, paving the way for marriage equality.
As individual states began legalising same-sex marriage he ramped up his efforts, co-sponsoring the Marriage Protection Amendment and the Marriage Protection Act in 2004. Both failed, but Pence refused to give up.
Ten years later, as Governor of Indiana, he issued a memo directing agencies not to comply with a ruling that forced Indiana to recognise same-sex unions. The state’s ban was still “in full force and effect”, he told them.
In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that state bans were unconstitutional, making marriage equality the law of the land, he stubbornly declared: “I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman, and I am disappointed that the Supreme Court failed to recognise the historic role of the states in setting marriage policy in this country.”
To this day, the GOP continues to officially support the reversal of marriage equality.
2. He was also against gays and lesbians serving in the military.
Mike Pence fervently opposed the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule, which prevented gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving openly in the military.
He argued that scrapping the law represented a “break of faith” with the military, and that LGBT+ servicemembers would hurt morale and unit cohesion.
Pence desperately urged Congress to “reject this measure,” adding: “No one in this house would desire to increase the risk on our soldiers at a time of war.”
He was ultimately overruled, but as vice president he has been successful in helping to enact a controversial and discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military.
3. Mike Pence supported conversion therapy.
Pence is famous for his connections to conversion therapy, a dangerous and discredited practise that has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades.
On the archived website for Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign, he suggested that funding for HIV prevention programming should be suspended and instead diverted to organisations that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour”.
While campaigning to be vice president he repeatedly declined requests to disavow the comments or clarify his point of view.
After being elected he attempted to rewrite history, claiming that he never actually supported the practise — even though his website had directly called for the therapy.
4. The vice president backed laws allowing open discrimination against LGBT+ people.
Throughout his career Mike Pence has been a fierce crusader for “religious freedom” and there’s ample evidence of his efforts to undermine LGBT+ protections.
For example, in 2007 he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a law which would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation across the US on grounds of religious freedom.
As governor of Indiana, he signed Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law which allows religious people and businesses to cite their conscience as a defence in legal disputes.
In a 2016 interview he was unable to answer when asked if should be legal to fire people because of their sexuality.
“Yes or no: do you believe gay and transgender people should be able to be fired from their jobs just for that reason only?” he was asked. After an awkward ten-second silence, Pence attempted to stall, responding: “It’s a great privilege to be your governor.”
5. Mike Pence oversaw the ‘largest HIV outbreak’ after eliminating test centres and needle exchanges.
Pence was governor of Indiana when it experienced the “largest concentrated outbreak of HIV ever documented in the United States” in 2014 and 2015.
The issue was compounded by a complete lack of HIV testing centres in many areas of the state, as Pence had defunded Planned Parenthood. He had also enacted a ban on needle exchanges despite such programmes being a proven method of HIV prevention.
He continued his fervent criticism of needle exchanges for months after the crisis emerged, and it wasn’t until the end of March 2015 that he finally relented as he was forced to declare a state of emergency.
Pence has since defended his role in the outbreak and said he is “proud” of how he handled it.
6. He opposed hate crime protections, and even doubts the existence of hate crimes.
In 2007, when the House of Representatives considered a bill to add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the federal hate crimes prevention act, Pence took to the house floor to claim that hate crimes laws “serve no practical purpose”.
“I fear this legislation, intentionally or unintentionally, could have a chilling effect on the religious expression and the religious freedom of millions of Americans,” he said.
Later in 2009, when a bill was again considered, he questioned whether transgender people had actually been victims of hate crimes.
“The hate crimes bill before us today makes a federal offence out of any violent crime that is alleged to be motivated by gender identity, including, for instance, people who describe themselves as transexuals,” he said.
“Even though the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, as amended in 1994, never collected any data to show that such hate crimes are even occurring.”
7. Mike Pence ‘wants to hang gay people’
If you’re still in any doubt as to Mike Pence’s attitude towards the LGBT+ community, just look to America’s homophobe-in-chief, Donald Trump.
In 2017 the New Yorker reported that Trump had made fun of his vice president’s extreme religious views during a meeting with a legal scholar.
As the discussion turned to LGBT+ rights, the president motioned to Pence and joked: “Don’t ask that guy – he wants to hang them all!”