Mike Pence really needs to take a day off — or maybe even all of the days off.
Just hours after the vice president headlined a fundraiser for an anti-LGBTQ+ group, CNN revealed that Pence referred to homosexuality as a “choice” and “learned behavior” while opposing an inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Lafayette, Ind. in 1992. He claimed extending protections to LGBTQ+ people in areas like housing and employment was a dangerous slippery slope.
“Once you identify homosexuals as a minority, then by definition they would need to be afforded constitutional protection,” said Pence, who served as president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation at the time.
In old newspaper clippings unearthed by CNN, Pence reportedly went onto say that LGBTQ+ people are not entitled to the same kinds of civil rights protections as people of color. According to Pence, the difference is that queer people “choose” their identities but Black people don’t “choose” their skin color.
“I do not choose whether I am a black American ... the great vast majority of the psychological community says homosexuality at a very minimum is a choice by the individual, and at the maximum, is a learned behavior,” he said.
Contrary to Pence’s statements, the “great vast majority” of U.S. medical associations have said the opposite: that the identities of LGBTQ+ people cannot be changed. That’s why groups like the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association have overwhelmingly opposed conversion therapy — the discredited practice of attempting to “cure” sexual orientation or gender identity.
Although conversion therapy has been widely debunked as harmful and ineffective, Pence is believed to have advocated in favor of the practice while running for Congress in 2000. On his campaign website, he called to divert HIV/AIDS funding to groups “which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
The vice president denies that language was intended to refer to orientation change efforts, yet he has never come out against conversion therapy, either.
Pence towed a similar line in responding to the CNN report. A spokesperson for the Second-in-Command claims that he “has always opposed discrimination in any form and defends the Constitution's protection of the rights of all Americans regardless of race, sex or religion.” That statement makes no mention of either sexual orientation or gender identity as worthy of constitutional protection.
Even more distressingly, Pence's spokesperson also doesn't say whether he has changed his position on homosexuality since 1992.
Lafayette’s nondiscrimination law eventually passed, despite Pence’s opposition. The Indiana college town — which is home to Purdue University — updated the ordinance to protect against anti-trans discrimination in 2016.
Prior to Pence's one-two punch in the last 24 hours, a spokesperson for the White House claimed that the vice president, who once passed a law allowing businesses to turn away LGBTQ+ people, can't be anti-gay because he dined with gay Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his boyfriend during a recent trip to Ireland.