Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is a darling of the religious right, and with good reason. Over the course of his political career, he has been a crusader (in his white-bread way) for the right’s pet causes. Chief among these, of course, is stopping the “homosexual agenda.”
While Pence is best known for his bumbling attempt to rebrand antigay bigotry as religious liberty last year, that was hardly his first foray into the fields of homophobia. In fact, both as governor and as a Congressman, Pence took the lead in attacking legal equality. He is far and away the most antigay candidate to run on a national GOP ticket, which is saying a lot.
As he accepts the Republican nomination, here’s a roundup of some of his choicest moments. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of them…
1. Supporting a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality
In 2006, then-Rep. Pence told 100 of his fellow Republicans that he supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex weddings. Or as Pence put it, supported “God’s plan” in the face of the destruction of civilization. “Societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family,” Pence complained.
2. Signed a bill to jail same-sex couples for applying for a marriage license
In an effort to make a bad idea even worse, as governor Pence signed a bill in 2013 that would jail same-sex couples in Indiana who applied for a marriage license. To prove that he wasn’t singling gay people out, Pence was also willing to jail marriage clerks who supplied a license or clergy who performed the wedding.
3. Wanted to divert funding from HIV prevention to conversion therapy
This one’s a two-fer: as a Congressional candidate in 2000, Pence wrapped two awful ideas into a single dreadful proposal. He wanted to ensure that “federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” So where should the money go? “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In other words, conversion therapy.
4. Opposed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Longing for the good old days of complete invisibility for gay people, Pence predictably ignored the preponderance of evidence in support of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Instead, Pence put himself out there as a leading opponent of the policy change. “There’s no question to mainstream homosexuality within active duty military would have an impact on unit cohesion,” Pence argued, dismissing the repeal as “some liberal domestic social agenda.”
5. Complained about the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill
In Pence’s ideal world, there would be zero protections. So it’s no surprise that he groused when the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes bill was signed into law in 2009. Pence didn’t cite legal objections. Instead, he complained that it advanced a “radical social agenda” and would have “a chilling effect on religious expression, from the pulpits, in our temples, in our mosques and in our churches.”
6. Served on the board of an antigay group
Pence has had a close relationship with the antigay leadership in his state. He served on the board of the Indiana Family Institute, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, which has been in the forefront of attacks on LGBT rights in the state, including a state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Thanks to its connections to Pence and other Republicans, IFI has been the recipient of funding for the state’s “Health Marriage” program. The former head of IFI has served as an aide to Pence both in Congress and the state house and as a campaign consultant.
7. Argued that passing ENDA would ban Bibles from the workplace
Of course, in Congress Pence voted against federal workplace protections. What was unique was his reasoning, which was that ENDA would discriminate against Christians. To comply with the law, Pence claimed, “the employer has to ban employees from having a Bible at the workplace for their break time, or displaying Bible verses.” Foreshadowing the Indiana religious liberty law, he went on: “We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience, whether it be in the public square or in the workplace.”
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