Donald Trump has selected as a running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who has a long anti-LGBT record that includes signing into law a “religious freedom” bill enabling anti-LGBT discrimination.
Amid speculation Trump would select Pence as his vice presidential nominee, Donald Trump affirmed Friday on Twitter he had chosen the Indiana governor as the No. 2 person on the Republican presidential ticket.
I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2016
On Thursday, Roll Call first reported the real state magnate had chosen the Indiana governor as running mate. A report in the Indianapolis Star, Pence’s hometown newspaper, indicated Trump had selected Pence and the Indiana governor would drop his re-election bid in the state to run on the national ticket.
The Trump campaign initially denied the candidate had decided on a vice presidential nominee, although CNN nonetheless reported Trump called Pence to offer him the slot and Pence accepted. On Fox News, Trump told Greta Van Sustren, “I haven’t made my final, final decision” on a vice presidential candidate and said he has about three candidates in mind.
Trump had insisted the announcement would come Friday during an event at 11 am at Trump Tower in New York City, but the event was subsequently cancelled following a deadly terrorist attack in Nice, France that killed 84 people. Upon affirming Pence is his choice Friday morning, Trump has now set his event for 11 am on Saturday.
Called by some in the media a cautious choice for Trump, Pence is a known social conservative and supported in the Republican primary Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). (Trump ended up winning Indiana in the primary anyway even though Pence backed his rival.)
Pence is reviled by many in the LGBT community. The governor rose to national prominence last year after he signed into law Senate Bill 101, which prohibited the state from taking action against an individual acting on sincerely held religious beliefs, including the refusal of services to LGBT people.
“There has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bill,” Pence said at the time. “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would’ve vetoed it.”
The newly enacted law ignited a firestorm in Indiana as LGBT advocates, the business community and local media condemned the measure and called for its repeal. Salesforce announced it would no longer do business in the state out of fear its customers and employees could be subject to discrimination. Connecticut, New York and D.C. were among the jurisdictions that instituted bans on state-sponsored travel to the state.
Pence seemed to exacerbate criticism over the law when he couldn’t deny during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” the law would enable discrimination against LGBT people. Faced with increasing pressure, Pence signed a “fix” to the “religious freedom” law clarifying the law doesn’t allow anti-LGBT discrimination, although churches, ministers and non-profit religious organizations would be allowed to act on anti-LGBT bias.
According to a 2015 survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 75 percent of state residents said passing the state law was bad for Indiana’s economy and 70 percent said businesses shouldn’t be able to refuse services to someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, condemned Trump in a statement for choosing Pence and said the candidate has recommitted himself to an anti-LGBT agenda with the selection.
“Donald Trump just doubled down on his agenda of hate and discrimination by choosing the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Mike Pence for his ticket,” Griffin said. “Mike Pence has never left any question about his animus toward LGBTQ people, from peddling a hateful and damaging ‘right to discriminate bill’ in Indiana last year, to his longstanding opposition to marriage equality — positions shared by Donald Trump.”
John Podesta, chair of Hillary for America, said in a statement Trump has chosen “an incredibly divisive and unpopular running mate” who’s espoused discriminatory politics and failed economic policies.
“Pence is the most extreme pick in a generation and was one of the earliest advocates for the Tea Party,” Podesta said. “He was the first of GOP leadership to join Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus. As governor, Pence personally spearheaded an anti-LGBT law that legalized discrimination against the LGBT community, alienated businesses, caused boycotts, lost investments and embarrassed Hoosiers — a law he was later forced to revise.”
The anti-LGBT actions from Pence as governor aren’t limited to him signing the “religious freedom” law. After the Obama administration issued guidance ensuring transgender students have access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity, Pence said, “The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”
Pence, an opponent of same-sex marriage, backed a proposed state constitutional amendment in Indiana seeking to ban same-sex marriage, but the measure failed in the legislature. The governor supported efforts to defend the state’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage as litigation proceeded against the law and ultimately won marriage equality in Indiana.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he’s unsure about the extent to which President Obama has interacted with Pence when asked about Obama’s opinion on the governor.
“I know that Gov. Pence did do some important work with the administration to expand Medicaid in his state,” Earnest added. “That’s something that President Obama has been encouraging Democratic and Republican governors across the country to do. But look, I’ll leave it to the individual candidates to determine who they believe would best complement their skills and could lead their party on the national ticket.”
Earnest restated Obama’s opposition to state anti-LGBT laws when asked a follow-up question on Pence’s signing an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill into law.
“Obviously the President has had a pretty strong negative reaction to state laws that are focused on taking rights away from people,” Earnest said. “But other than that, I think Gov. Pence is chosen, these are the kinds of questions that he’ll have to answer under the national spotlight.”
Pence consistently got “0” on HRC scorecard
But Pence has held anti-LGBT views long before he was elected governor. As a member of the U.S. House from 2003 to 2013, Pence as a Family Research Council-backed lawmaker consistently received a score of “0” on the Human Rights Congressional scorecards for each of the five terms he was in office.
Pence voted in favor of a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006 and opposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and hate crimes protections legislation.
In 2000, Pence’s congressional campaign declared he wouldn’t back federal funding to care for people with HIV/AIDS unless money was cut to programs “that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus,” advocating instead for programs to change “sexual behavior.”
Speaking against ENDA on the House floor in 2007, Pence said, “If an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment.”
Trump selects Pence as his running mate after he asserted he asserted he’d be a better friend to the LGBT community than his rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, Trump unveiled his list of speakers for the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland and, according to the Huffington Post, among them was gay billionaire Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and board member of Facebook.
Although observers have said Trump hasn’t had as much vitriol for LGBT people as he has had for other minority groups, Trump has told social conservatives to “trust” him to oppose same-sex marriage, said he would “strongly consider” appointing U.S. Supreme Court justices who would reverse marriage equality and offered conditional support for the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
John Fluharty, who’s gay and former chair of the Delaware Republican Party, was optimistic that Trump would more freely advocate moderate views now that he’s chosen a social conservative as a running mate.
“I’m hoping this is a strategic move designed to allow Trump unleash his moderate self knowing that Pence has the right flank nailed down,” Fluharty said. “If it’s not then we have a problem.”
Matt McTighe, executive director for Freedom for All Americans, said Trump’s selection of Pence was indicative of a downward trend in terms of the candidate’s support for LGBT rights.
“Reports of Donald Trump’s selection of Gov. Pence as a running mate are deeply troubling,” McTighe said. “First he was silent when the Republican Party advanced the most virulently anti-LGBT platform in American history. He has said he will sign into law legislation that has been introduced in Congress that would legalize discrimination against LGBT Americans. And now he is putting the man who led the fight for state-sanctioned discrimination in Indiana right next to him on the ticket.”
Reports emerge Trump has selected Pence as his running mate in the same week the Republican National Committee’s drafted a proposed 2016 platform called the most anti-LGBT platform in history. Among other things, it seeks to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage, endorses widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and opposes allowing transgender people to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
Earnest declined to comment directly on the platform Thursday when asked by the Washington Blade if it posed a threat to progress seen under the Obama administration. Instead, Earnest spoke generally about inaction from congressional Republicans.
“There’s a real question inside the Republican Party about what it is that they stand for,” Earnest said. “And it’s not clear what they stand for because they’ve had Republicans in Congress for the last year and a half that haven’t advanced their own agenda. They’ve been much more focused on just trying to throw sand in the gears of the president’s agenda.”
But Earnest acknowledged under a follow-up question from the Blade opposition to same-sex marriage and discrimination against transgender people seeking restroom use are things with which Obama disagrees.
“They are,” Earnest said. “And again, I think it is indicative of Republicans’ inability or refusal to put forward their own proactive agenda. Instead — again, based just on what you’ve said — it sounds like even their party platform is focused on just trying to tear down a bunch of things that President Obama believes in. Again, I think the American people have higher expectations for their leaders who are entrusted with so much responsibility.”