March 15, 2019 at 3:44 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Irish prime minister attends Pence St. Patrick’s Day breakfast with partner
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, second from right, and his partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett, first from right, attend a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Vice President Pence’s official residence in D.C. on March 14, 2019. (Photo via Twitter)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his partner on Thursday attended a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Vice President Pence’s official residence.

Pictures that Varadkar posted to his Twitter page show him and his partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett, with Pence and his sister, Anne Pence Poynter, at the breakfast. Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, who teaches at a Virginia school that does not allow openly LGBTI students to enroll and refuses to hire out faculty members, was not in attendance.

“We are greatly honored for our third time as a family in this historic residence to welcome the taoiseach of Ireland, Leo Varadkar,” said Mike Pence as he introduced Varadkar at the breakfast. “We are also really honored to be joined by your partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett.”

Pence and President Trump continue to face criticism over their administration’s anti-LGBTI policies that include efforts to ban openly transgender service members. The breakfast also took place less than a month after the White House announced openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell will lead a campaign that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations if they haven’t done so already.

Varadkar in his remarks said Mike and Karen Pence at last year’s breakfast told him “my partner Matthew would be welcome to join us” at this year’s event. Varadkar also referenced the fact that Ireland criminalized homosexuality until 1993.

“I knew at the time that I lived in a country where if I tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws, but today that has all changed,” he said. “I stand here as leader as my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”

Varadkar is Ireland’s first prime minister who is openly gay and of Indian descent. Varadkar is one of a handful of out world leaders.

Varadkar raised LGBTI-specific issues during Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland in August 2018. Varadkar last month also discussed them in his public comments at a summit with European Union and Arab League of Nations countries that took place in Egypt.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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