Given Mike Pence's LGBTQ Record, He Should Have Been Asked About It At The Debate

Tuesday night's vice presidential debate covered a variety of topics: immigration, foreign policy, even a brief tangent about faith and abortion. But the VP debate entirely failed to mention what is arguably the most important issue raised by Mike Pence's presence on the ticket: Pence's history of attacking LGBT rights. Pence supported the infamous Indiana "religious freedom" bill that would have legalized many forms of discrimination against LGBT people and later told the Indianapolis Star that providing legal protections for gays and lesbians in Indiana was "not on [his] agenda." In the face of enormous public pressure, the "religious freedom" bill was modified, but under current Indiana law, LGBT Americans can still legally be fired, evicted, or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The most shocking thing about Pence's anti-gay record, though, is that he sought to divert HIV prevention funding for conversion therapy, psychological treatment intended to "turn" an LGBT person straight.

None of this, unfortunately, was mentioned by moderator Elaine Quijano during the debate. LGBT people and allies were outraged by the omission. On Twitter, the hashtag #LGBTQ began trending during the end of the debate, with many expressing frustration that issues of anti-LGBT discrimination were not mentioned despite the Republican candidate's homophobic record.

There are undoubtedly dozens of issues that don't receive enough attention in presidential and vice presidential debates. Many worthy and important topics, like education policy, Native American tribal and legal rights, and agricultural/farming policy don't get the attention they deserve. Given that debates only have a finite amount of time, there are some critical topics that just don't get discussed. But to omit LGBT rights with one of America's most notorious anti-gay crusaders onstage was a critical error, and Twitter users were right to be outraged.

If all goes well for Pence in November, he could be one of the most powerful people in the country. The Trump campaign has indicated Trump's willingness to allow his vice president an unprecedented amount of power, which would mean that Pence could influence Supreme Court nominees that could reverse major rulings like Obergefell, which legalized gay marriage throughout the country, and Windsor, which eliminated the federal Defense of Marriage Act. A Trump-Pence administration could attempt to issue executive orders ceasing federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The Republican Party's platform for 2016 even supports conversion therapy, in spite of how harmful it has been shown to be.

Gay rights have, thankfully, advanced rapidly throughout the last decade, but all of that progress could be undone by a Trump administration, particularly with Mike Pence at the helm. LGBT people are among the Americans with the most to lose under a Pence vice presidency. Bringing his record to the forefront is the only way to allow Americans to make informed decisions about how Pence's political ambitions could affect them or their loved ones. In light of that fact, Elaine Quijano's failure to ask Pence about gay rights is exactly that--a failure.