Former Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the University of Virginia yesterday evening. During a Q&A session at Old Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, a student asked, “I’m just wondering if one of your children came out to you as gay, how would you respond? What would you tell them?”
You can watch a C-Span video of his response below, from the 55,38 mark.
Pence replied, “I’d look them in the eye and tell them, ‘I love you.’”
The audience applauded, and Pence continued, “Let me say on this issue … if we got to know each other, you’d know the Pences love everybody. We treat everybody the way we want to be treated.
“But on this issue, and it’s frankly something that when the Obergefell decision was made which legalized same-sex marriage in America, the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy wrote at the end, that this decision will likely create an intersection and tension between people in same-sex relationships and people in the exercise of their religious liberty.”
Pence said there had been an ongoing debate for the past seven years over religious freedom on the issue, and he saw a need to go back to “first principles”, where congress did not make laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
“Look, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, I believe in traditional marriage, and I believe marriage was ordained by God and instituted in the law, but we live in a pluralistic society, and the way we go forward, and the way we come together as a country united, I believe, is when we respect: Your right to believe and my right to believe what we believe.”
Although claiming the Pences love “everybody”, the former VP did not show much love for trans athletes during his speech.
He said the UVA swimmer Emma Weyant had been unfairly deprived of a title at the NCAA championship last month by losing to transgender athlete Lia Thomas.
“Weyant won that race,” Pence said, before going on to criticize President Joe Biden’s stance on trans rights.
“I know that in his State of the Union address President Biden promised to stand for the God-given right of men to compete in women’s sports, but common sense needs to reign and it will reign.”
Pence’s appearance was at the invitation of the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative organization. Last month, the University of Virginia’s college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, blasted Pence’s planned appearance. In an editorial, the newspaper slammed Pence as a “homophobic, racist and transphobic politician” whose “hateful rhetoric’ should not be given a platform.”
The university defended its decision to host Pence, with a spokesperson telling the newspaper, “[The event] is not a University-sponsored event, but it fits well within the University’s academic mission to offer our community the opportunity to hear from, and engage with, leaders and experts from a wide variety of fields and perspectives.”
Last night’s engagement saw a small protest against the event outside the hall, although Pence received a warm welcome from the largely conservative audience inside the venue.
Pence was Vice President during the Trump administration. Between 2017 and 2021, the advocacy group GLAAD kept a running count of all the Trump administration’s attacks on LGBTQ people. It totaled 181 by the time Trump left office, including his ban on trans people serving in the military and a move to allow federal employers to discriminate against LGBTQ just days before his departure from the White House.