In a demonstration intended to signal outrage over his anti-LGBT record, students at the University of Notre Dame are planning a walk-out during an upcoming commencement ceremony in which Vice President Mike Pence is set to deliver the keynote address.
Xitlaly Estrada, a Notre Dame undergraduate, said in a statement the protest — set to take place during the ceremony on Sunday — is the result of Pence enacting policies in opposition to the Catholic faith.
“The participation and degree-conferring of VP Pence stand as an endorsement of policies and actions which directly contradict Catholic social teachings and values and target vulnerable members of the university’s community,” Estrada said.
Prior to his election as vice president, Pence built an anti-LGBT record during his political career. As a U.S. House member, Pence voted against and denounced on the House floor “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
As Indiana governor, Pence famously signed into law a “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed companies and individuals to refuse services to LGBT people. Faced with pressure from the business community and LGBT advocates, Pence was forced to sign into law a “fix” to the measure.
Organizing the protest at North Dame is a coalition of groups that include We Go High! of St. Joe County, Ind.; Michiana Alliance for Democracy; Alliance for Democracy; the Nu Black Power Movement; South Bend Equality; Inclusive Michiana; Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky; and the IWW Local 26. Organizers are using the hashtag #WalkOutND to build support for their effort.
In addition to Pence’s anti-LGBT record, the walk-out is intended to protest his rejection of the Syrian refugee resettlement program, support for Trump’s travel ban, and opposition to sanctuary cities, a statement announcing the demonstration says.
Bryan Ricketts, a Notre Dame undergraduate, said in a statement the demonstration is consistent with former Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh’s vision of school solidarity with the vulnerable.
“Like Father Hesburgh, we seek to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable,” Ricketts said. “We will walk out in silence, with respect for the human dignity of those with whom we disagree and with an invitation to the rest of the community to build an inclusive future together.”
The planned walk-out is set to take place weeks after Education Secretary Betsy Devos delivered the commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida, and graduating seniors booed and turned their backs on her over controversial remarks she made comparing HBCUs to schools of choice.
The Washington Blade has placed a request with the office of the vice president seeking comment on the protest.