In a blistering new profile of Vice President Pence’s rise to prominence among the Christian right, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recounts several anecdotes from campaign and administration staffers about how President Trump ribs his vice president for his antipathy toward the LGBTQ community. The profile demonstrates Trump’s callous indifference toward Pence’s extreme social agenda.
One particular anecdote stands out that undermines Trump’s long-standing claim to support LGBTQ people and underlines Pence’s opposition to LGBTQ equality:
Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!”
Pence’s history of opposing LGBTQ equality is well documented, from his support of ex-gay conversion therapy to haplessly defending the discriminatory “religious freedom” legislation he signed into law in 2015. During the campaign, Pence helped secure the support of religious conservatives — promising, for example, that the administration would rescind the Obama administration’s guidance protecting transgender students in schools, which it did shortly after Trump took office.
And that advocacy has continued in the White House, if quietly. For example, Pence and his staff were lobbying House Republicans earlier this year to support a legislative ban on transgender people serving in the military. He has likewise served as the administration’s emissary for the religious right, welcoming them to the White House and praying with them over the President.
News of Trump’s tolerance for Pence’s antipathy for the LGBTQ community follows two weeks of actions opposing equality. The Department of Justice announced it is no longer protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released new “religious freedom” guidance that enables anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and Trump himself became the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit, which is organized and funded by several anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
UPDATE: The White House has refuted the account. Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement to IndyStar, ““Articles like this are why the American people have lost so much faith in the press… The New Yorker piece is filled with unsubstantiated, unsourced claims that are untrue and offensive.”