In his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has attempted to appeal to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community perhaps more so than any of his predecessors running on the Republican ticket. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, a portion of which is seen above, Donald Trump spoke of the tragedy of the shootings at Pulse Nightclub by an “Islamic terrorist” and stated: “As your president I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
While this overt statement of support for the LGBTQ community was surprising coming from the nominee of the conservative party, it was particularly stark in contrast to the views and policies of Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence. As Governor of Indiana, Pence has taken numerous measures to restrict the rights of people in the LGBTQ community, most of which are seen as subversively discriminatory. The Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which score politicians on their work to promote equal rights, scored Pence a zero and a seven out of 100, respectively.
Here’s what you need to know about Pence’s historical views and policies toward the LGBTQ community:
1. He Signed Legislation Allowing Businesses to Deny Service Based on Sexual Orientation
In March of 2015, Pence signed into legislation the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), or Senate Bill 101. According to more than 30 law professors who reviewed the bill, in essence it allowed business owners the right to refuse service to customers on the grounds of religious freedom; in other words, to refuse service to members of the LGBTQ community.
The move backfired: across the state there was an outcry from civil rights advocates, the Indianapolis Star, and local employers who called on Republican leaders to repeal the law and ban such outright permission for discrimination. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce objected to the law as a threat to the state economy, as multiple businesses threatened to pull out work and employees from the state. According to the Indianapolis Star, 12 conferences scheduled to take place in Indiana changed venue, citing the RFRA as the sole or contributing cause of the decision, and the blow to businesses totaled $60 million. A report from the Center for American Progress cited the threat to business lost as a result of the RFRA was more than $256 million. The backlash was significant enough to force Pence to revise the legislation, which now provides protection to customers from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
At an address to discuss the reversal, as seen in the video above, he stated he had been “proud” to sign a bill that in his opinion was “about religious liberty, not about discrimination,” and he further stated he believed that “religious freedom is our first freedom, and it is vital.” He cited “misunderstanding, confusion, and mischaracterization” of the law, which did “not give anyone the license to discriminate.”
2. He Supported & Co-Sponsored Bans on Same-Sex Marriage
Pence has repeatedly stated, as seen in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd as shown in the video above, that he “supports traditional marriage,” between a man and a woman, as the backbone of conservative society. In 2004 he co-sponsored legislation to prohibit same-sex marriage. He supported a similar measure again in 2006, but in doing so he argued that preventing non-traditional forms of marriage was not intended as discrimination, but rather was intended to enforce “God’s idea.” Pence took this statement even farther when he suggested that by changing the definitions of marriage a ‘societal collapse’ would follow. As a leader in advocating for a constitutional amendment to specify the traditional definition of marriage and the head of the Republican Study Committee, Pence stated: “Societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”
Then, in 2008 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he stated:
Marriage was ordained by God and instituted in law. It is the glue of the American family and the safest harbor to raise children. Conservatives must defend traditional marriage by passing the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Pence so vehemently supported a ban on gay marriage in the state of Indiana that in 2013 he signed legislation allowing the imprisonment of couples who applied for marriage licenses (along with clergy performing weddings and clerks providing licenses).
3. He Voted Against LGBTQ Workplace Anti-Discrimination Legislation
In the same interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC, Pence deliberately skirted around stating clearly whether he believes that an employer should be able to legally fire someone from his or her job on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity. However, and despite stating that he “abhors” discrimination against any individual, in 2007 while in Congress Pence was clear in his opposition to workplace security for LGBTQ employees when he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a workplace anti-discrimination law intended to protect members of the LGBTQ community from being fired due to sexual orientation or gender affiliation.
In defense of his decision, Pence stated that the legislation “wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace” and would discriminate against Christians, as employees would not be allowed to have Bibles or Bible verses on display in the workplace. Further, Pence argued: “We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience, whether it be in the public square or in the workplace.”
In 2013 the bill was approved by the Senate but was voted down in the house.
4. He Proposed Redirecting Funding From HIV Prevention to Conversion Therapy
At the time that Pence was a Congressional candidate in 2000, he proposed cutting support for the prevention of HIV/AIDS because he believed that federal funds should not be “given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spread of the HIV virus,” with the connotation for these “behaviors” being those of a homosexual or non-traditional nature.
In addition, on his campaign website which detailed The Pence Agenda, he suggested that the funds be redirected “toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” otherwise known as “conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy considers sexual identity a lifestyle choice, and patients are “treated” for their homosexual feelings and tendencies through a variety of methods, including hypnosis, electroshock, and induced vomiting while shown erotic homosexual images to create negative association; mechanisms considered torture under the Geneva Convention. Conversion therapy is currently banned in the states of California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont.
5. He Opposed Allowing Military Members to be Openly Gay
“Don’t ask don’t tell,” the longtime policy restricting members of the military from identifying openly as gay, was repealed in 2011. However, Pence explicitly favored keeping the policy. In a 2010 interview with CNN, Pence stated that allowing military members to identify openly as gay could risk cohesion in the ranks and that the military should not become “a backdrop for social experimentation.”