After a perfectly nice weekend, the usual suspects are back to ruin your day.
This time the fun-ruiner is White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. On Monday, Deere tweeted about Mike Pence’s upcoming luncheon with openly gay Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar as a defense against accusations the vice president is anti-LGBTQ+. “For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay,” he wrote, “I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.”
In other words, Deere is suggesting that because Pence is having lunch with a gay man as part of his job, he can’t be homophobic.
Twitter immediately pounced on Deere’s comment, with Chasten Buttigieg, husband of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, tweeting in response: “I’ve sat at tables with people who would gladly deny me the right to marry, who openly support conversion therapy, and who adamantly believe being gay is a choice. Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal.”
Deere made headlines a few months ago, after a BuzzFeed profile revealed that he’s one of the few openly LGBTQ+ members of the administration. Previously, he helped the Arkansas attorney general’s attempts to block same-sex parents from appearing on their child’s birth certificate and reverse Fayetteville’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance.
Still, the idea that the Vice President isn’t homophobic because he took a lunch with a gay couple, because he has to for work, is a breathtakingly low standard.
The list of Pence’s anti-gay positions is seemingly endless. He defended countries that execute people for being gay and suggested during his 2000 run for Congress that resources for HIV/AIDS programs be redirected to conversion therapy. While he denies the latter claim, Pence also pushed to remove health care coverage for LGBTQ+ servicemembers and signed a so-called "turn away the gays" bill to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ customers as governor of Indiana.
The Vice President’s feelings are so well known that even Donald Trump once joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!” when asked about Pence’s thoughts on LGBTQ+ rights. (The White House later referred to that comment as “fiction.”)
Even Mike’s wife Karen Pence, who’ll be joining the lunch, works at a school that requires LGBTQ+ students and staff to remain closeted.
The couple will dine with Varadkar as part of a three-country tour of Europe that includes Iceland and the United Kingdom. Iceland’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Samtökin 78, has called upon the country’s government to cancel the visit over Pence’s anti-equality record.