Vice President Mike Pence suddenly seems to be worried about what the LGBT community thinks of him after two openly gay American athletes spoke out against him leading the U.S. delegation in Pyeongchang, South Korea this Friday for the Winter Olympics.
When asked last month, Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon denounced the vice president because of his homophobic political history. "You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" he replied. "I’m not buying it."
During his congressional campaign in 2000, Pence opposed same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws, and sought to divert money from HIV research "to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors 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 behavior."
Although not explicitly stated, many interpreted Pence's desired "resources" to be conversion therapy, or religiously-charged camps aiming to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity (in the most extreme cases, these camps employ institutionalization, castration, or electroshock therapy).
"This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact," said the vice president's press secretary Alyssa Farah. "Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang."
Pence's team reached out to the athlete to set up a meeting ahead of the Winter Olympics. Rippon declined, to focus on his training: "I’m not trying to pick a fight with the vice president of the United States," he said, although Rippon says he wouldn't mind meeting with the vice president after the Olympics are over.
I personally have nothing to say to Mike Pence. Given the chance to talk after the Olympics, I would want to bring with me people who’s lives have been hurt by legislation he has championed.
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) January 20, 2018
"He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump... but I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up," said Rippon. "Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in."
Pence then tweeted words of "encouragement" at Rippon.
.@Adaripp I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ‘em!
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 8, 2018
"I want you to know we are FOR YOU," the vice president tweeted at Rippon. "Don’t let fake news distract you."
Stealing a play from his boss' playbook, Pence continues to deflect rather than own up to his documented anti-LGBT views. Why doesn't Pence simply clarify his views on conversion therapy? Was that the reason for the meeting? Even if it was, the vice president isn't entitled to Rippon's time or anyone else's he's fought for the right to discriminate against.
And even if that was fake news, what of his series of attacks on LGBT rights?
In 2006, Pence supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex weddings, citing "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family." When same-sex marriage was legalized nationally, then-Governor Pence signed a bill that would jail same-sex couples who applied for a marriage license and continued to fight to ban in his home state of Indiana.
In 2009, he opposed expanding the definition of a hate crime to include sexual orientation. Pence was worried a pastor's sermon condemning gay sex could be considered hate speech. "This will have a chilling effect on religious expression, from the pulpits, in our temples, in our mosques and in our churches, and it must be undone."
In 2010, Pence opposed the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, dismissing it as "some liberal domestic social agenda." "There’s no question to mainstream homosexuality within active duty military would have an impact on unit cohesion."
In the year since Trump has been president, his administration has attempted to ban transgender people from enlisting in the military, repealed school obligations to protect transgender students, wrote a memo to the Justice Department saying that courts would no longer protect transgender people from workplace discrimination, employed several anti-LGBT extremists, and said it was okay to hang anti-LGBT signs in businesses.
We're not buying it, Mr. Vice President. You can't be for us if you're against us. If you want the support of all of the U.S. Olympic athletes, you need to support all Americans, especially the most vulnerable. And that begins with owning up to what you've done, apologizing for it, and ACTION.
You could start by allowing transgender people to serve in the military without fear (or your conditions).
— tyler oakley (@tyleroakley) February 8, 2018