A White House deputy press secretary on Monday evening tweeted out a suggestion that on its face must be corrected: that Vice President Mike Pence couldn’t possibly be anti-gay because he was meeting with another head of state who was, in fact, gay.
Judd Deere posted on his Twitter account that Pence and his wife were meeting with the Taoiseach (leader) of Ireland during his trip to that nation, and that it somehow proved definitively that Pence wasn’t a bigot.
“For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule [Tuesday] where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland,” Deere tweeted.
For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland. 🇮🇪 @merrionstreet pic.twitter.com/Cj5kMpln0U
— Judd Deere (@JuddPDeere45) September 3, 2019
Yet there are many complications with Deere’s missive. For starters, it purports that a person’s associations alone, not their past statements or actions, define who they are or whether they hold bigoted viewpoints. But just as a person who says “I have black friends” may exhibit racist points of view, so too can a person be anti-LGBTQ even if they’ve had a meal with someone who is gay.
Indeed, we would have to ignore a storied history of Pence’s actions, as governor, congressman, and vice president, to presume this lunch with a foreign leader erases all of his attempts at promoting discrimination in American society.
Before marriage equality became the law of the land across the United States, Pence (as governor) fought vigorously against the marriage rights of same-sex couples who had married outside of Indiana but had moved to the state. When court cases affirmed these marriages as legitimate, he ordered an appeal against them.
Gov. Pence also signed a controversial “religious freedom” law in his state, shortly before being nominated to become Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running-mate, which legalized discrimination by businesses against people in the LGBTQ community. As vice president, Pence pushed for implementing a proposal that would allow doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, and others in the healthcare industry to make similar “choices” to discriminate, based on those professionals’ religious beliefs.
And as congressman many years ago, Pence suggested that American society itself could be harmed by the normalization of gay and lesbian relationships, a trope that is often pushed by opponents of marriage equality.
“Societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family,” Pence said.
Many more examples, beyond those I’ve listed above, demonstrate Pence’s history of harboring anti-LGBTQ views. A single lunch with a foreign leader who happens to be gay, while historic for Pence personally, doesn’t erase those examples, nor does it provide evidence that Pence’s ideas have “evolved” since the time he was promoting bigoted and errant viewpoints.
If Pence wants to demonstrate his views have changed — and if individuals like Deere want to suggest that they have — they need to demonstrate ways in which the vice president has opted to promote equality for the LGBTQ community.
Having a sandwich with someone who is gay is great, but it doesn’t do anything substantive. In actuality, it shows very minimal growth as a person on Pence’s part.