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OPINION: Mike Pence: The Anti-LGBTQ+ Champion

By Anvi Joshi ('21) and Esha Peer ('21)

This article was written in February of 2019, 10 months before the first impeachment of President Trump. As Congress pushes forward with second round impeachment and unseating legislation (or the invocation of the 25th amendment), the Viking Vibe Staff finds this to be an insightful article of the perspective.

A shadow.

That’s what Vice-president Mike Pence has been since the start of President Trump’s 2016 term. President Donald Trump has been in the limelight since the start of his campaign for his strong conservative views, but the public may have overlooked his sidekick, the anti-LGBTQ+ champion and an otherwise quiet presence within the White House.

Mike Pence has been a controversial figure, even before his position as President Trump’s second.

According to a CNN article, Pence was a Democrat as a teenager, and later changed his ideology to being a conservative, even heading the “conservative think tank, Indiana Policy Review Foundation.”

Pence also holds his religious views in high regard, having stated that he is a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” His devotion to his religion has gained him a lot of support from religious voters.

In an article by Madeleine Sheehan Perkins on Business Insider, Perkins writes about the controversial views Pence has expressed in his last couple years in the public eye: his campaign for conversion therapy, or attempting to convert a homosexual individual to a heterosexual.

Pence’s official campaign website stated, “money funding research for HIV/AIDS should be moved to fund conversion therapy, ‘which provide[s] assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,’ ”.

Conversion therapy has often been criticized for being inhumane and hurtful to one’s health, especially when administered to children. The Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest groups advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in the world, has been fighting against conversion therapy, and many psychologists have condemned it for being hurtful or ineffective to the individuals.

Jonathan Foiles, a licensed therapist wrote in his blog that “Nearly every major association of mental health professionals have released a statement condemning the practice. Yet it persists… Meta-analyses of studies on the treatment have found that it simply doesn’t work, and qualitative reports have detailed the suffering and pain it leaves behind.”

If there’s been so much backlash on the topic, then one must wonder why Pence supports it. Conversion therapy often leaves behind disastrous and everlasting scars, hurting individuals with derogatory feelings of self-worth and loneliness. Sometimes it involves electroshock therapy, where one is exposed to electric currents and shocked, and aversion therapy, which involves leading one to associate ‘bad habits’ with negative sensations such as pain.

A conversion therapy survivor spoke about his experience, saying “Their tactics still haunt me. Aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment, and occasional physical abuse. Their goal was to get us to hate ourselves for being LGBTQ.”

Understanding the ultimate objective and methodology of conversion therapy, some wonder why it would ever be allowed.

“That’s not how it works. You can’t just ‘ungay’ someone,” said Kirthana.

Pence even spoke at a rally for the Family Research Center, a hate-group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that strongly supports conversion therapy, and according to their website “believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed… oppose[s] the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools…”

Pence, by doing so, is also the first vice president to speak at one of these rallies during his time in office, and has one of the strongest anti-LGBTQ stances, as seen in articles he published where he asked employers to refrain from hiring gay individuals, and his passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during his stint as governor, a bill that allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s up to debate on whether a politician should show such bias against a large group of people, but there Pence’s views have not lost him any love.

“The people in the Republican Party don’t seem to have an issue with it. Democrats probably do, but they are not voting for him anyway, so whether or not it’s proper depends on who you ask,” said Mr. Scott Wissocki, a U.S Government and Politics teacher at South Brunswick High School.

Pence’s stance on conversion therapy, however, does not breach even half of the attacks he has had against the LGBTQ community. Pence’s views have been shown time and time again, from not only from the words he has said, but also the laws and actions he has taken.

Opposite from the Obama administration, Pence has refrained from lending a helping hand to the LGBTQ community, having rejected many pro-gay laws enacted by the former President, and having expressed opposing views like when Pence “said gay couples signaled ‘societal collapse’... He opposed a law that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace… He opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…” and “He rejected the Obama administration directive on transgender bathrooms.”

To some, Mike Pence seems like another white man looking for supremacy. However, to his large base of supporters, Pence represents their views and beliefs.

“Republicans in Congress and state legislators probably support Pence more than they would support Trump because Pence is a long-time traditional Republican that has always been in the party and has been well-known,” said Mr. Wissocki.

An article from The Atlantic emphasizes the minority Pence can represent, the Evangelical Christian Conservatives in America. Although no longer as popular, his views do hold standing in giving diversity to the political system, more liberal than ever before.

Pence additionally stands to hold a more experienced and presidential outlook and presence compared to Trump, who has long since been criticized for falsifying information or speaking in a manner that is too brash or controversial.

Pence’s daughters have been known to have differing views from their father, both being staunchly liberal against their father’s conservative beliefs.

However, according to a Vanity Fair article, Mike Pence is “supportive! “Probably the person I get the most respect from is my dad on that, and. . . he tells me so many times, ‘I am proud of you for having your own opinions and looking into things,’ ” [Audrey Pence] said back in 2013.”

This suggests Pence may be more open to bipartisanship and could potentially bring back the practice of respecting different political parties and ideas, clearing up the contentious atmosphere in politics today.

Pence and Trump are, at first look, opposites. They may belong in the same bracket of conservatism, but many see Pence in connection with Trump’s contentious and boisterous attitude instead of separate from him.

They both are similar to each other and arguably possess more extreme viewpoints. Though Pence is more experienced in politics and embodies a quieter leadership, he still has done and holds controversial actions and opinions.

However, Pence is well-loved in the political community and could bring a different, more civil view to the White House.

With the Mueller investigation drawing to an end with enough evidence to possibly impeach Trump, all of these issues and beliefs about Pence may come back to light… only with Pence as president.

For now, Pence’s hypothetical Presidency is a toss-up in both productivity and public opinion, but it lends to swing either way.

The American public just has to wait and see…

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