April 30, 2018 at 4:38 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Activist: I ‘misspoke,’ Pence wants gays in ‘conversion camps’

Brandon Wolf says he misspoke about Vice President Mike Pence wanting gays in “concentration camps.” (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Under fire from the right-wing media for comments he made about Vice President Mike Pence wanting gays in “concentration camps,” one of the survivors of the 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub now says he “misspoke.”

Brandon Wolf — who’s now head of the Dru Project, an organization that supports GSAs in schools — told the Washington Blade via email on Monday he intended to say Pence wants gay people in “conversion camps” to subject them to the widely discredited practice of “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

“I misspoke on Joy’s show,” Wolf said. “What I meant to say was that Vice President Pence would have us in conversion camps. Which, of course, is a reference to Pence’s tacit support of the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth. The psychiatric community has overwhelmingly condemned this form of torture on children while Pence and the modern GOP stubbornly stick by their support of it.”

Wolf added Pence, who had a long anti-LGBT history as a U.S. House member and governor of Indiana, should speak out against conversion therapy.

“I stand by my view that Vice President Pence is wildly out of touch with the realities faced by LGBTQ youth today and should publicly denounce the dangerous practice of conversion therapy,” Wolf said.

Wolf invoked the ire of right-wing media on Saturday during an appearance on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show when he said the focus should not be on the controversy over blog posts she wrote years ago now deemed homophobic, but the Trump administration.

Asserting the Trump administration is filled with “homophobic psychopaths,” Wolf took drew particular attention to Pence.

“If Mike Pence, God bless him, ended up in the White House, sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office, he would have us all in concentration camps hoping to pray away the gay,” Wolf said.

LGBT advocates maintain Pence supports conversion therapy and sought to transfer federal funds intended for HIV/AIDS program to the practice. That’s based on a statement from his 2000 campaign for the U.S. House that stated he supports HIV/AIDS funds on the condition that resources are directed to institutions that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

That has been interpreted as support for “ex-gay” conversion therapy, although a Pence spokesperson has denied the vice president ever supported the practice.

But Pence’s anti-LGBT record goes beyond that, as a recent initiative from the Human Rights Campaign called “The Real Mike Pence” has sought to reveal.

As a U.S. House member, Pence backed a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide and was a vocal opponent of pro-LGBT initiatives, including hate crimes protection legislation, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Most prominently, Pence in 2015 as Indiana governor signed a “religious freedom” bill allowing businesses and individuals to refuse services and discriminate against LGBT people. After pressure from LGBT advocates and the business community, Pence was forced to sign a “fix” to the law significantly limiting its scope.

As for his time in the Trump administration, there are rumors that Pence was behind the transgender military ban, although his office has denied he was involved and said he defers to the Pentagon on the issue.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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