At a press conference on Indiana’s religious liberty law, Gov. Mike Pence (R) defended the law as not having the intent to discriminate while also calling for a “fix” to clarify that the law does not allow businesses to discriminate “against anyone.” Pence took offence at the “misinformation” about the law that had spread since he signed the state’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) into law on Thursday.
“I don’t support discrimination against gays or lesbians or anyone else. I abhor discrimination,” he said. “No one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe.”
But his track record on several issues, including LGBT rights, suggests otherwise.
Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation In The Workplace
While in Congress, then-Rep. Pence voted no on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which proposed to ban discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. (Gender identity was considered too controversial at the time and stripped out of the bill, but all subsequent versions of the bill have included protections for gender identity as well as sexual orientation.)
“However well-intended, the bill extends existing employment discrimination provisions of Federal law like those contained in title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Pence said in a speech on the House floor. “I don’t condone discrimination against people for any reason whatsoever. I believe in civility and decency in society. But the problem here is that by extending the reach of Federal law to cover sexual orientation, employment discrimination protections, in effect, can wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace.”
“Either the employer has to ban employees from having a Bible at the workplace for their break time, or displaying Bible verses, and thereby face a lawsuit under title VII for religious discrimination, or the employer then has to continue to allow it and face a potential lawsuit under ENDA by the homosexual employee. This sets up a constitutional conflict headed for the courts, about which Congress should not involve itself.”
“I strongly oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 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,” Pence concluded.
Pay Discrimination Based On Gender
As a congressman, Pence also voted no on the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gave women the ability to bring a pay discrimination charge after each individual paycheck was issued, rather than having the statute of limitations expire 180 days after the initial pay decision was made.
While running for the governorship in 2012, his opponent at the time, John Gregg, put forth a proposal to put forth equal pay legislation in the state. Pence passed on commenting at the time, saying he hadn’t had the opportunity to review the proposal.
Discrimination In The Military Based On Sexual Orientation
Pence was also in Congress for the debate over repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a Clinton-era “compromise” that often meant gays and lesbians in the military had to hide their sexual orientation or risk a dishonorable discharge. In addition to voting no on the repeal, Pence made an impassioned speech on the House floor.
“And let me say to the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts who just spoke who suggested that those of us who oppose a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would commit some libel against Americans with whom we differ on life-style choices, nothing could be further from the truth,” Pence said. “As a conservative, I have a particular world view about moral issues. They do not bear upon this question. This is an issue exclusively that is about recruitment, readiness, unit cohesion, and retention because we are a nation at war.”
“Of course the most ominous of all was a suggestion by Army Chief of Staff General George Casey who said: increase the risk on our soldiers. Men and women, no one in this House, would desire to increase the risk on our soldiers at a time of war,” he warned. “Reject this measure. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a successful compromise in 1993; and so that compromise should remain.”
A study released by the Palm Center in 2012 found that that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, “has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.”
Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples
Many say the Indiana law is in part a reaction to blocked efforts to ban same-sex marriage in the state. An appeals court in September ruled that Indiana and Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
Pence himself has been a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, signing on to a Family Research Council and American Family Association letter that decried leftist attacks on efforts to protect “traditional marriage.” Pence also co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment as a congressman, which sought to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
On the House floor, he said, “I believe first, though, marriage should be protected, because it wasn’t our idea. Several millennia ago the words were written that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. It was not our idea; it was God’s idea. And I say that unashamedly on the floor where the words ‘In God We Trust’ appear above your chair, Mr. Speaker.”