Vice President Mike Pence has been catching some flack for the revelation that, as detailed in a Washington Post profile, he allegedly refuses to dine alone with any woman who isn't his wife Karen, nor will he attend any events with alcohol at them if she isn't there. This struck many on the left as comically outdated and unnecessary, and led to quite a bit of mockery of the vice president. But really, this isn't anything close to the more important facts about Pence, which are much more appalling.
Pence was criticized for his self-imposed marriage rule on multiple fronts. Many argued that his refusal to eat alone with women inadvertently diminished the job prospects of women in his orbit; however, Pence does have several women on staff, including his deputy chief of staff, so that doesn't quite hold up. Other critics simply mocked Pence's rule on the grounds that actually, men and women are perfectly capable of being friends, or at least grabbing a sandwich together, without immediately ripping each others' clothes off. But by all accounts, the Pences' arrangement is a consensual agreement they've come to that works for them, and in my opinion, that's something people should applaud, not condemn.
That said, there are plenty of other reasons people should condemn Pence. While his relationship is his business, his record as a public figure — both in statements he's made and policies he's instituted — is downright atrocious, especially for women and LGBTQ Americans. Here is but a small sampling of the real reasons we should be criticizing Pence.
1. He Thinks Smoking Isn't Bad For You
In a stunningly bad opinion piece from 2000, Pence wrote that "despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill." To support this dubious assertion, he claimed that "2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness." This would mean that one-third of all smokers do die from smoking-related illnesses, which would seem to disprove Pence's argument that "smoking doesn't kill."
2. He's Anti-Choice
As you might expect given the "(R)" next to his name, Pence intensely opposes reproductive rights. He's called Roe v. Wade "the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott v. Sandford," wants to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, and supported multiple bills in Congress that would define fetuses as people. As governor of Indiana, he signed an anti-abortion law that was so strict, a federal judge blocked it from taking effect.
3. He Opposes Marriage Equality
Just as unsurprising is Pence's opposition to marriage equality. He supported a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed same-sex marriage, and said on the floor of the House of Representatives that allowing gay couples to marry could bring about a "societal collapse."
4. He Voted To Defund Planned Parenthood
As a congressman, Pence led the fight to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011. This was ostensibly due to his opposition to abortion, even though federal law already prohibits public funds from paying for most abortions. On Thursday, he cast a tie–breaking vote on a bill in the Senate that, once enacted, will allow states to withhold Title X funding from Planned Parenthood clinics and other abortion providers.
5. He Wanted To Defund HIV Treatment Centers...
@jimthompson621 At one point, Pence wanted to redirect federal funding from HIV treatment programs to “conversion therapy” practices. (3/5)— Jim Thompson (@jimthompson621) November 20, 2016
While running for Congress, Pence wrote on his webpage that he opposed "organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus." He was referring to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides care and treatment to HIV-positive folks.
6. ...And Give The Money To Anti-Gay Conversion Therapists
Who the hell cares who Mike Pence eats with?— Luisa Haynes (@wokeluisa) March 30, 2017
I happen to care more about his ideas that people should have conversion therapy if they're gay
Rather than fund HIV treatment, Pence proposed giving that money to "institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." LGBTQ activists understood this to be a reference to anti-gay conversation therapy, the debunked practice of trying to convince gay people that they aren't actually gay.
Over a decade later, Pence's spokesperson denied that this was what he meant, claiming that "change their sexual behavior" was a reference to promoting "safe sexual practices." However, that's hard to square with the fact that he doesn't think condoms work.
7. He Thinks Condoms Don't Work
In 2002, Pence said that "condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases." He added, cryptically but revealingly, that condoms are "too modern" of a solution to STDs, and said that he supports abstinence-only education instead.
8. He Signed An Awful LGBT Ordinance
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a hideous "religious freedom" bill that permitted private business to discriminate based on sexual orientation. After a disastrous and widely-mocked attempt at defending the bill on TV, Pence relented and signed a bill that added anti-discrimination language to the law. This must have been painful for him, as he argued in 2000 that gay people are not "entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities."
9. He Thought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Was Too Liberal
Not so friendly reminder that Mike Pence (VP) opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'— Anna Jones (@AnnaMJones1997) January 26, 2017
"Don't ask, don't tell" was a Clinton-era law that banned openly gay people from serving the military, but also banned superiors from inquiring about service members' sexuality. Pence opposed that law, which has since been repealed, claiming that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion."
10. He Thinks You Shouldn't Talk About Institutional Racism
While running for vice president in 2016, Pence insisted that there's "too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism within law enforcement." He reiterated that point again, explaining that "we ought to set aside this talk about institutional racism."
Notably, he never claimed that institutional racism doesn't exist, only that we shouldn't be talking about it.
11. He Thinks Mulan Is Liberal Propaganda
To anyone surprised Mike Pence is afraid of being alone with women, here is the VP using Mulan as a justification for an all male military pic.twitter.com/BTsghw38xt— Butters Scotch (@Test_Eccles) March 30, 2017
The classic Disney film Mulan is about a woman who fights capably in the military. This was enough for Pence, working as a radio shock jock back in 1999, to assume that the film was the work of "some mischievous liberal at Disney" determined to "cause a quiet change in the next generation's attitude about women in combat."
"Despite her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan's ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success," Pence wrote.
Although progressives might find Pence's marriage rules absurd, this isn't a good reason to criticize him. His chronic support for anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-science policies, on the other hand, are perfectly good reasons to criticize him.