If you can bear to, cast your mind back to the beginning of 2017. It was cold, the media was consumed with mockery for the newly-inaugurated Trump, and hundreds of Washington’s LGBTI-supporting community danced to Rihanna outside of Vice-president Mike Pence’s new home in the capital. It was not a welcome party, it was a warning of their strength; but this reaction?
He does not believe in same-sex marriage
Pence seeks to define marriage as between a man and a woman exclusively. His 2002 congress campaign focused on ‘Strengthening the American Family’ which meant refusing to hold gay and lesbian relationships in the same standing as heterosexual relationships. He pushed support for all legislation which strengthens the two-parent heterosexual family, and refused to recognise that the LGBTI community needs the same protection from discrimination as women and ethnic minorities.
He does not believe LGBTI people should serve their country in the military
From 1991-93 Pence was president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation (IPRF). During this period the organisation published an article declaring homosexuals unfit for military service. Their reasoning? Homosexuals are not ‘able-bodied’ enough and carry ‘extremely high rates of disease’. On his 2000 campaign website, Pence wrote, ‘Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion.’
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a piece of legislation brought in by Bill Clinton to prevent the army from harassing closeted bisexual and homosexual members, however it still allowed openly gay members to be dismissed. Obama repealed this legislation to allow members to serve openly, despite many – including Pence – opposing this.
He supports discrimination
As Governor of Indiana, Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which prohibited employers from judging a potential employee on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender. Pence also signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law - nicknamed the ‘right to discriminate’ – which, had it passed, would have allowed individuals and companies to assert that their religious expression has been substantially burdened as a defense in legal proceedings. Under Pence a pastor could potentially have refused to marry a same sex couple, despite same-sex marriage being legalised nationwide under Obama. Day to day, a shop owner could have refused to serve a LGBTI person without any legal ramifications.
He cut funding to Planned Parenthood
There is no National Healthcare System in America. In Indiana Pence cut funding to Planned Parenthood, America’s main not-for-profit healthcare group. Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortion in the US, but in its 2013-14 report that amounted to just 3% of overall services provided. All clinics provide family planning and contraceptive services for all genders and sexualities, as well as vital pap smears and colonoscopies. Yes, they save lives too. No matter if the baby is the result of rape or if there is danger to mother, and even with Planned Parenthood subsidies, abortions in the US can run as high as $3,275 (£2,629) depending how far along in the pregnancy you are. If you’re sat there thinking, ‘Well I’ve never had an abortion’ bear in mind that across the Atlantic the morning after pill can cost up to $67 (£54) a pop.
He will not clarify his view on conversion therapy
In a statement on his website, Pence wrote that congress should ‘ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.’ Unnervingly many have interpreted this to mean Pence will not only divert federal funding away from Planned Parenthood, but also towards institutions which offer conversion therapy. This practice – despite being illegal in some states – is still exercised throughout America and is based on the widely-discredited belief that homosexuality is a learned behaviour that can be reconditioned.
He is anti-abortion
Worse than cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding would be cutting off the law that allows them to operate by banning abortion. Trump hopes to hand this decision back to the governers of individual states, aka back into the hands of some of Pence’s peers. Forty-four years ago the landmark case Roe vs. Wade recognised that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a woman making personal medical decisions, including having an abortion i.e. no one can decide what a woman does with her body but her. Pence is vocal about his pro-life status, in the run up to the 2016 election he promised that if elected the Republicans would “see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”
As Governor of Indiana in March 2016, Pence attempted to pass a law which required all fetal tissue to be cremated or buried no matter the length of pregnancy or cause of its termination. This meant that if a woman miscarried at home she would have to keep the tissue and either take it to a clinic or have it buried or cremated by a funeral home. Cleverly for Pence’s agenda, if this law had passed, the cost to clinics of this method of disposal would also dramatically increase the price of abortions.
If he had his way only heterosexual married couples would ever have sex
If abortions aren’t going to be an option in Trump and Pence’s America, surely the obvious step is to improve sex education? Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the US are at their highest in 20 years. The US is divided (surprise surprise) as to whether abstinence-only programs (Republicans) or a more comprehensive sexual education (Democrats) is the right way to go to decrease teen pregnancy and STD rates. Currently sex-ed policies vary from state to state, and many of the more conservative states promote abstinence-until-marriage as the primary method of avoiding unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. This stigmatises both male and female sexuality and reinforces previously lapsing gender stereotypes.
His backward ideals lead him to preside over one of the largest outbreaks of HIV in US history
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that currently in the US one in two black men who has sex with men will become HIV positive. This is a shocking statistic for a nation which thinks the HIV epidemic is a thing of the past. Under Pence’s view that only married heterosexual couples should be having sex, access to contraception and sexual health services would become difficult for the many who do not fit that mould. In 2015 Pence presided over a huge HIV outbreak in Indiana, declaring a public health emergency and – despite being openly against the practice – gave clean needle exchanges the go ahead to open for thirty days in a desperate too-little-too-late attempt to slow the transmission rate. Despite this, Pence voted against Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the first health care system to guarantee coverage for those needing treatment for HIV.
He agrees with Trump’s removal of certain transgender rights
During (and because of) Trump’s inauguration, the largest one-day protest in the USA’s history was held. People joined the Women’s Marches in cities the world over, and a few weeks later they returned to the main thoroughfares of these cities, placard freshly painted, to protest Trump’s first move as President, his suspension of all US refugee admissions (the ‘Muslim ban’).
Remember when we saw rallies the world over protesting the government’s rescindment of Obama’s legislation permitting transgender children to use whichever bathroom they wanted at school. This repeal came despite Trump’s assurance during his election campaign that a transgender person could “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate”. Pence’s argument was that “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools,” How many rallies can we hold before these saturated methods of fighting – just like the Trump administration’s promises – become meaningless?