While Donald Trump’s track record on LGBTQ+ rights is questionable at best, his vice president has a far longer history of taking just one side of the argument. When Trump joked that Mike Pence’s stance on LGBTQ+ people is to “hang them all,” his quip landed too close to home for queer people across the nation who live under constant fear of violence as a part of their daily lives. And even though The Occidental Weekly published an opinion by Milo Goodell on why impeachment probably will not happen, there is one reason that the mere prospect scares me as a queer person more than any other: President Pence. His militantly right-wing agenda would cause serious and potentially irrevocable harm to the country if he were ever given the platform to enact it, especially to the estimated 10 million LGBTQ+ people living in the United States today.
Some believe that Pence would be a better president than Trump. After all, he has years of experience serving as an elected government official in the state of Indiana and seems to at least understand the expectations of the office. He manages to make press statements, meet with foreign leaders and tweet without resorting toTrump’s middle school-level rhetoric when defending his controversial viewpoints from detractors. He seems to be, at least in comparison to Trump, a competent leader. However, comparing him to Trump is dangerous, because while he may appear to know how to comport himself in a manner befitting the office of the presidency, he is by no means a centralizing or unifying figure for the country.
One reason for this is that Pence has supported multiple proposed amendments and laws that would outlaw gay marriage. This is arguably one of the least controversial LGBTQ+ rights movements in the United States, with well over half of the country in support of letting same-sex couples get married to each other. He also voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Pence claimed at the time that the bill “wages war on freedom of religion in the workplace.” He is even widely considered to be tacitly in favor of conversion therapy, having previously called for greater funding for “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Conversion therapy is an abusive practice which has been demonstrably ineffective and places participants in significant psychological and sometimes physical danger. It should have no place in our national conversation.
While Trump is by no means a champion of LGBTQ+ rights, I shudder when I think of the anti-queer rhetoric that would be produced by the Pence presidency and of the legislation that would get passed during his tenure. Pence has already likened the recent rise in LGBTQ+ rights to be “an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family” that will ultimately lead to “societal collapse.” Whereas Trump has shown no interest in pushing legislation that would fight against the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage, Pence would undoubtedly use his platform to push his ultra-conservative, ultra-Christian and ultra-homophobic values on the rest of the nation.
Donald Trump stands accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women, has openly mocked a disabled reporter and has continually made blatantly Islamophobic, sexist and racist remarks, among other things. His administration has faced scrutiny since before it officially began for ties to hostile foreign powers and is currently being investigated for collusion. And, if all that were not enough, he is playing a game of nuclear chicken with the one other world leader who probably would be willing, if it came down to it, to put a violent end to an entire country. My point is, Trump is demonstrably awful in almost every way, and any of these examples of reckless ineptitude would be enough to deem him unfit for office. He has the whole package — there are very few issues on which his position does not immediately make me cringe.
Even with Trump’s objective professional and personal incompetence, Pence would not be a better president than Trump, unless by better we mean more effective at implementing his homophobic and heteronormative agenda. And while diversity of opinion is an important facet of the lawmaking process, America really doesn’t need a man who describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order” to be in charge of steering the ship for the millions of people who would be actively harmed by a Pence administration. At least with Trump at the helm, queer people can find some small comfort in the fact that the president doesn’t necessarily want to see them burn in hell — that’s just his vice president.
Harper Hayes is a senior Spanish and Psychology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.