Press secretary uses Pence's lunch with Varadkar as proof the VP isn't anti-gay

Activists have aired their concern regarding Pence's visit being used as "propaganda" to win the Irish/American vote and combat his homophobic image.

Pence and Varadkar pictured with their partners shaking hands outside Farmleigh House during Pence's visit to Ireland
Image: Paul Faith/afp/getty Images

There has been widespread backlash following a tweet by Donald Trump’s deputy press secretary Judd Deere in which he attempts to cover Pence’s homophobic track record. Deere, who is openly gay himself, claimed that Pence is not anti-gay because he met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

“For all of you who still think our Vice President is anti-gay, I point you to his and the Second Lady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Dr Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland,” he tweeted on Monday, Septemeber 2.

Earlier this year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett attended a breakfast with Pence and his wife Karen during St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Pence is known to have voted against hate crime laws during his time in Congress as well as allegedly endorsing gay ‘conversion therapy’.

Additionally, Pence opposed the repeal of the US military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, saying that he did not want to see the military become ‘a backdrop for social experimentation’.

Following Deere’s comments, the husband of 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s, Chasten, has commented that Pence can still be anti-gay even if he is friendly with people who are gay.

Chasten Buttigieg, 30, a teacher, replied, “I’ve sat at tables with people who would gladly deny me the right to marry, who openly support conversion therapy, and who adamantly believe being gay is a choice. Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal.”

Chasten was not the only one to point out some home truths about Deere’s ridiculous statement.

GLAAD, who has been running an accountability project on Trump’s Government, tweeted:

“We can’t believe we have to say this but simply meeting with a gay person doesn’t erase Pence’s long history of attacking LGBTQ people through policy, legislation, and rhetoric. Nice try though.”

Before Pence’s Irish visit, Paula Fagan, CEO LGBT Ireland said:

“His far-right views on marriage equality being a threat to the ‘family’, his support of conversion therapy and his eroding of policies which support trans young people to be out in schools are deeply concerning for the LGBT community in the States and worldwide and the Irish Government should make a clear stance that these regressive policies are unacceptable in a modern democracy.”

Activists have raised concerns that Pence’s Irish visit will be used as “propaganda” to win the Irish-American vote and as an attempt to combat Pence’s homophobic image.

Ruarí McKiernan, a founding member of Uplift, says Pence’s visit is a severe cause for concern:

“Trump is very much in campaign mode at present and I’ve no doubt Pence’s Irish visit will be used for propaganda purposes, just as the recent visit to Doonbeg was. The Irish American vote is huge and these guys know the value of positive coverage.

“That’s why it’s important not to be complicit in supporting this regime in any shape or form. Pence’s views on LGBT rights, and his government’s record on the environment, women’s rights, and workers’ rights are dreadful.”

For his part, Pence tweeted on September 3 that “there has been a remarkable bond” between Ireland and the United States “since the beginning of our republic.”

“Thanks to the leadership of President @realDonaldTrump and Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar, the relationship between the United States and Ireland has never been stronger,” Pence tweeted.

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