Vice President-Elect Pence’s Role in Future Policy-Making
The media has declared the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. In a vigorous and scandal-driven election, little attention was paid to running mate and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who may have a big influence on policies threatening LGBTQ rights for the next four years.
According to The New York Times, a Kasich advisor who spoke only under the condition of remaining anonymous, was asked by Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., if John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, had “any interest in being the most powerful vice-president in history.”
When asked how this would be achieved, Trump, Jr. stated that Trump’s vice-president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.
Instead, however, Trump chose Mike Pence, the Republican Governor of Indiana, who is popular among conservative evangelicals, says The New York Times—thus gaining him support among conservative voters. By making Pence his running mate, Trump gives him the power over domestic and foreign policy instead of Kasich.
In order to predict how Pence’s policies will affect LGBTQ rights activism in the future, his past work on domestic social issues has to be considered.
PolitiFact, a political fact-checking website run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, says Gavin Newsom, a prominent LGBTQ rights supporter, stated Pence “advocated for diverting taxpayer dollars to so-called conversion therapy.”
On Pence’s campaign website for his run for Congress in 2000, he stated that “resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” clearly referring to conversion therapy, which is used for this exact purpose.
According to the McClatchy news service, a network of news professionals who work in 14 states and 29 communities, “delegates voted to approve a platform that backs the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children” at the Republican National Convention. “The platform makes no specific mention of gay conversion therapy, but critics say that passage is aimed at accepting the notion that one’s sexual orientation can be changed.”
Currently, only five states, namely California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, and New Jersey, have banned conversion therapy. When asked about Pence’s current stance on the topic, his spokesman declined to give information, according to PolitiFact.
Indication for Pence as a threat to LGBTQ rights can also be found on his 2000 campaign website where he writes, “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.” According to congress.gov, he sponsored legislation in the form of a 2004 bill “to define marriage for all legal purposes in the District of Columbia to consist of the union of one man and one woman.”
Fox News says after President Obama passed a federal directive in May, mandating that public schools allow students to use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, Pence issued a statement, saying “the federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”
In 2015, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into Indiana state law, which allows discrimination based on religious beliefs, says the Huffington Post. According to Bill Oesterle, the CEO of Angie’s List, “employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.”
Considering Pence’s strictly conservative views and support of anti-LGBTQ legislation throughout his political career, he is expected to continue to limit LGBTQ rights in the future. A conservative majority in both chambers of Congress is highly likely to contribute to stagnation and setbacks within this particular corner of civil rights activism.