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BY LISA KEEN
INDIANA – If Indiana Governor Mike Pence has one weakness in the eyes of the conservative Republican Party base, it’s that he’s too soft on LGBT people.
That seemed to be the general assessment of various commentators this week as they imagined and then learned through a Twitter post Friday morning that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has named Pence as his vice presidential running mate.
Trump was scheduled to hold a press conference Friday morning to announce his choice of a running mate but abruptly canceled that plan Thursday night after a shocking attack on Bastille Day revelers in Nice, France, killed more than 80 people. Trump then posted a Twitter message late Friday morning, making the announcement official.
Pence, who pondered a run for the Republican nomination in 2012, is said to be well-respected among Republican conservatives, but he is not well-liked by LGBT activists.
Rich Tafel, former president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, called Pence “about one of the worst people for gay equality based on his experience in the House and as Governor.”
But, added Tafel, “There is an upside.”
“Pence is a favorite of the evangelicals and endorsed [Ted] Cruz. If this bus goes off the cliff, which I think it might,” said Tafel, “it is better to have the evangelicals and the white nationalists in it together. Whatever happens, they will blame others for their failure, but the fact that 85 percent of evangelicals are on board with Trump is good for those of us seeking to create a new center right party. Had Trump chosen someone more moderate, the far right would say that’s why we lost.”
As a member of the U.S. House, Pence opposed every piece of pro-equal rights legislation that came to the floor in the House, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He also voted for amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In each of those years, his record on LGBT issues repeatedly earned him a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.
Speaking at an event in Iowa in 2011, Pence suggested that allowing gay couples to marry would lead to an economic meltdown. He told MSNBC that repeal of DADT amounted to trying to “advance a liberal social agenda” and “mainstream homosexuality.”
In 2014, Governor Mike Pence led support behind a state bill to ban recognition of same-sex marriages. The cut sentence called for also banning recognition of other forms of same-sex relationships, such as civil unions. And in 2015, he supported and signed a bill that would have allowed citizens to discriminate against LGBT people by claiming to hold a religious belief that compelled them.
Bob Vander Plaats, who has headed up anti-gay campaigns in Iowa, told an Iowa television station that Pence will attract evangelicals to the ticket because he is “pro-life” and against marriage for same-sex couples.
But Pence disappointed some conservatives last year when – after first supporting and signing the “religious freedom” bill – he signed a “clarification bill” aimed at “resolving controversy” and “making clear every person feels welcome and respected” in Indiana. And a number of conservatives expressed unhappiness with Trump’s choice Thursday.