Earlier this month, figure skater Adam Rippon earned the distinction of becoming the first openly gay U.S. athlete to ever qualify for the Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, he’ll have to enter the opening ceremonies in PyeongChang behind Vice President Mike Pence, who is known for his history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy, about which President Trump has reportedly joked around the White House.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports this week. “I’m not buying it.”
In 2000, Pence refused to support the Ryan White Care Act, which funds HIV treatment for those who can’t afford it, if the bill did not provide funding for ex-gay therapy. Pence subsequently stated, through spokespeople, that claims he supported ex-gay therapy were a “mischaracterization.”
That comment rings hollow given Pence’s other anti-LGBTQ beliefs. For example, in 2007, he opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) because he felt employers should be allowed to fire or refuse to hire people who engage in “homosexual behavior.” He’s also widely thought to be the primary influencer for the Trump administration’s many anti-LGBTQ initiatives.
Rippon doesn’t want to even meet Pence, if he can help it. “I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” the 28-year-old skater said. “To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shitholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
The skater likewise reiterated that he he will refuse to go to the White House for a post-Olympic celebration. Last week, he explained to the BBC that he felt he had a duty as a role model not to entertain Trump’s invitation.
“I won’t go because I don’t think somebody like me would be welcome there. I know what it’s like to go into a room and feel like you’re not wanted there,” he said. “If I talked to people the way that President Trump talks to people, my mom would kick my ass.”
Rippon says he won’t be participating in any form of organized protest during the Olympics, but he will continue to share his story.
“What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018 and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”