Mike Pence Once Said Being Gay Was a "Choice," Argued Laws Protecting LGBT People Unlike Those Based on Race

Mike Pence Once Said Being Gay Was a “Choice,” Argued Laws Protecting LGBT People Unlike Those Based on Race
US Vice President Mike Pence meets with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (not pictured) inside 10 Downing Street on September 5, 2019 in London, England. Ahead of today's meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mike Pence had already stated that the US stands with the UK over Brexit. Boris Johnson lost two critical votes in Parliament last night. The first was the Bill bought by Labour's Hilary Benn to prevent a "No-deal" Brexit and the second was his own to hold a general election on the 15th October. Peter Summers/Getty Images

The White House recently said Vice President Mike Pence isn't "anti-gay" because of a scheduled lunch with the openly gay prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, but Pence's record on LGBTQ+ issues doesn't exactly match the picture the Trump administration is trying to paint.

In the early 1990s, during a debate about adding sexual orientation to a local non-discrimination ordinance in Lafayette, Indiana, Mike Pence argued against the initiative because he believed homosexuals "choose" to be gay, CNN reported Friday.

The deeper look into Pence's record started when Judd Deree, the White House Deputy Press Secretary, tweeted about the lunch with Prime Minister Varadkar.

For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland. 🇮🇪 @merrionstreet pic.twitter.com/Cj5kMpln0U

— Judd Deere (@JuddPDeere45) September 3, 2019

However, the case for Pence not being "anti-gay" isn't as strong when considering his past public statements on the issue.

Pence said in the early 1990s in a public debate about a local ordinance meant to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination that there was a "grassroots-generated movement for recognition of homosexual rights" at the time, but that, unlike African Americans, homosexuals choose their minority status.

"I do not choose whether I am a black American... the great vast majority of the psychological community says homosexuality at a very minimum is a choice by the individual, and at the maximum, is a learned behavior," he said during a public debate, originally reported by the Journal & Courier.

Since 1973, the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality as a mental illness and by the 1990s the consensus in the psychiatric community was that homosexuality was likely biological and genetic.

The debate over the ordinance lasted for nearly a year, with Pence — at the time a failed Congressional candidate and president of the conservative Policy Review Foundation — regularly arguing against the initiative on public policy grounds.

"It represents a very bad move in public policy," Pence told the Journal & Courier in January 1993. "It opens up from a legal standpoint... a Pandora's Box of legal rights and legal difficulties once you identify homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority."

The measure passed in May 1993.

"No federal agency or state agency (has) ever spoken to the question of sexual preference as a source of civil rights," Pence told the Journal & Courier after the measure passed, arguing the campaign to add the measure was the start of a movement to reform the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

As Pence went on to serve Indiana in Congress and as Governor, his record on LGBTQ+ issues didn't change much, most famously in 2015 when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which allowed people and companies to cite religion as a defense in legal proceedings. Many believed the law would allow businesses to deny services to LGBTQ+ people. Backlash to the law was immediate, with companies like Apple and Angie's List pulling business from the state. In the end, Pence was forced to revise the law to include protections against potential discrimination.

Darin Miller, Pence's spokesman, told CNN on Friday that the vice president "has always opposed discrimination in any form and defends the Constitution's protection of the rights of all Americans regardless of race, sex or religion."