Mike Pence Could Set LGBQT Rights Back Decades

Update: On Friday via one simple tweet, Donald Trump confirmed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is his vice presidential running mate.

Earlier: After much speculation, the veepstakes are over, and the results are in: Reuters, the New York Times , and dozens of other publications are reporting that Donald Trump will be running alongside Indiana Governor Mike Pence. While a large chunk of the internet was Googling "Mike Pence" on Thursday morning, the LGBQT community was horrified — because while Donald Trump claims to be a friend to "the gays," he reportedly choose a governor virulently opposed to LGBQT rights as his running mate, hard on the heels of the news that the GOP platform is quite possibly the most opposed to LGBQT rights ever. If the Trump-Pence campaign prevails in November, the fight for LGBQT rights in America could be set back decades.

Trump's selection of Pence is a bit mystifying. Aside from the hypocritical nature of the choice in light of Trump's previous statements, it has the potential to backfire spectacularly. Trump went from being a reluctantly palatable candidate for gay Republicans — the least homophobic choice on a slate of outstanding homophobes — to one who betrayed the community he claims to care about with the cynical and coldhearted selection of a running mate clearly calculated to appeal to anti-LGBQT voters who might otherwise be hesitant to support Trump. Evidently, he's decided where his bread is buttered.

One month ago, Trump invited the world to "ask the gays" about their support for him. Apparently, he didn't think that listening to them would be a good idea. Perhaps not a surprise, given that despite being described at various points during the electoral cycle as "LGBQT friendly," Trump, among other things, opposes same-gender marriage, and believes that it's up to the states to decide whether transgender people should be allowed to use the bathroom like everyone else.

Pence's term in Indiana has been marked by a number of astoundingly regressive social policies, but he's definitely repeatedly indicated his contempt for the LGBQT community. For example, he opposes not just same-gender marriage, but also civil unions, in addition to any and all same-gender partner rights and benefits. He also supports conversion therapy (alternatively known as "ex-gay therapy"), which has been banned in a number of states on the grounds that it's tantamount to child abuse.

In 2015, he signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act akin to the disturbingly similar legislation Congressional Republicans debated on the one-month anniversary of the Orlando shooting. Indiana's law effectively legalized discrimination, as long as it's done in the name of religion. After considerable outcry, he "fixed" the legislation, but in public comments, he made it clear that, at least on some level, he still supported it. Indiana lost upwards of $60 million in tourism revenue as a result of subsequent boycotts.

The governor has repeatedly spoken out in opposition to anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws, including the Matthew Shepard Act, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and other legislation designed to protect LGBQT Americans.

Selecting Pence is disturbing on multiple levels. While Trump has been busy with dogwhistles to reassure conservatives that he'll oppose LGBQT rights, Pence has brought those dogwhistles to life in a very public and ugly way. It's Trump's signal to the party that he plans to fall in line with their stance on LGBQT rights, and given Pence's legislative experience and clout, there's a very real risk that he could have tremendous influence as a vice president.

Moreover, it's another nail in the coffin for the dwindling number of gay Republicans. This week, the party announced its platform, which included systematic homophobia on a level that illustrates Republicans have given up even the slightest pretense of caring about LGBQT rights. The platform includes defenses of "natural marriage," endorsements for conversion therapy, and support for bathroom bills. That's not a big surprise, since the authors include people who say homosexuality is more lethal than smoking, and commentators who have argued that the LGBQT rights movement is equivalent to the Nazis. Even gay Republicans have expressed disgust with it.

Republican critics of the platform argue that it will "alienate" LGBQT voters, and they're not wrong. Between a homophobic platform — which still has to be formally voted in on Monday, in what will likely be a contentious floor fight — and a vile VP pick, Donald Trump has effectively ensured that any LGBQT voters who were interested in him before are going to be fleeing in droves. Maybe not necessarily into the arms of Hillary Clinton, but perhaps to a third-party candidate.

There is one bright spot in all this: Cleveland just enacted a gender-inclusive bathroom ordinance, right in time for the convention.