If you managed to brew up just the right red bull and coffee cocktail to stay awake during last night’s vice presidential debate, you might have come away with the impression that neither of the candidates have much of a record of speaking for or against LGBTQ rights. Moderator Elaine Quijano and candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine all failed to mention the issue. Which is strange, since—from a national perspective—it’s a pretty important one, and—from a personal perspective—Mike Pence has practically built his career on gay-bashing.
Pence first rose to prominence in national politics when he signed and subsequently defended Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, which gave businesses the freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ people so long as they claimed it was for religious reasons.
Aside from the moral failing of enshrining discrimination into state law, the RFRA has been a disaster for Indiana’s economy. Indianapolis’s tourist board estimated the city lost up to $60 million from businesses shunning the state due to the law.
Pence has repeatedly claimed that the purpose of the law wasn’t to harm LGBTQ rights but to protect freedom of religion. But it only take a few minutes with Google to see that Pence has a history of saying deeply hateful and patently untrue things about gay people, such as:
- “Homosexuals are not as a group able-bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle” in a 1993 issue of Indiana Policy Review.
- “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage” in a 2000 proposal on HIV/AIDS funding.
- “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” in the same proposal.
- “We ought not to use the American military as a backdrop for social experimentation or debating domestic policy issues” in a 2010 appearance on CNN arguing to preserve the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
- “The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature” in comments earlier this year on President Obama’s directive for schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.
- “… societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family” in a 2006 speech in Congress.
Why didn’t Tim Kaine press Pence on any of these issues during the debate? Maybe it’s because— while he’s got nothing to match Pence’s vitriol— he has his own history of dragging his feet on LGBTQ issues. Why didn’t Quijano? Search me.