Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) still cannot clarify if he believes the law should protect workers from being fired just because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Indiana has been a flashpoint for LGBT nondiscrimination protections after lawmakers passed a “religious liberty” bill last year that seemed to enable discrimination against LGBT people — by design. Attempts to correct course this year have already floundered, but Democrats are trying to keep the conversation going.
Pence was similarly put on point on the matter during a town hall on Thursday. An audience member asked him, “In a simple yes or no answer, do you believe that gay and transgender people should be able to be fired from their jobs just for that reason?” There was a long pause, and then, skirting a “yes” or “no,” he began by saying, “It’s a great privilege for me to be your governor.”
He went as far as saying, “I don’t think anyone should ever be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love,” but he stopped short of specifying whether he think the law should be involved. Instead, he reiterated the same talking points from his State of the State address last month: “My strong conviction is that, should the General Assembly put legislation on my desk, which they considered this year, and should I continue to be governor and they ever do in the future, it just must be consistent with the constitution. But I will not support legislation that diminishes religious freedom.”
Freedom Indiana, the state’s LGBT advocacy group, published a video of the exchange on YouTube. In the video’s description, the group notes, “Pence has never been able to answer the question of whether he believes LGBT Hoosiers should be fired for who they are. Time after time, he has dodged the question of why he does not support comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”
The group’s accusation that Pence dodges the question has proven accurate in the wake of the video’s circulation. ThinkProgress reached out to the Indiana governor’s office Friday morning — seeking clarification to the “yes or no” question, and also inquiring whether Pence believes protections for LGBT workers do, in fact, impose on religious liberties — but received no reply. FOX 28 similarly sought additional inquiry but heard nothing in response.
Pence may simply be maintaining his opposition to LGBT protections while trying to not sound like it. In Congress, he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2007, which would have created federal employment protections based on sexual orientation. He defended his vote at the time, explaining, “We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience, whether it be in the public square or in the workplace.”
Given his talking points haven’t changed, it’s likely his position hasn’t either.