Since Trump took office, his vice president has faced criticism for his record on LGBT issues. Sometimes the criticism comes in serious forms, while other times, it’s more lighthearted. During a recent visit to Aspen, he received a bright, rainbow-colored reminder that some disagree with him when it comes to LGBT rights: an Aspen home trolled Mike Pence with a “Make America Gay Again” sign near where he was staying over the holidays.
The Aspen Times reported that people living in the home next to where Pence was vacationing in Aspen posted the banner on Wednesday or Thursday. While a county sheriff was present when they draped the banner over a pillar in front of their house, he said they didn’t run into any trouble with Secret Service or law enforcement. The Secret Service agents reportedly told them, “We're not here to control your free speech rights.”
To thank the agents for their understanding, the couple brought them chili and corn muffins, according to Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. Later, a resident of the home emailed The Aspen Times and revealed that the owners' daughters hung the banner. Other neighbors have taken similar actions in the last year. When Pence rented a house in Chevy Chase DC last December, for example, his new neighbors hung rainbow flags outside their houses.
Just a month later, the dance activist group WERK for Peace held a "Queer Dance Party at Mike Pence's House," which was attended by some 200 people. The event's organizer, Faris Nasr, told TIME that Pence had passed "quite horrific anti-LGBT laws," and that his group was using dance to counter these messages.
One of the laws Nasr was likely referring to is Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Pence signed into law in 2015, when he was governor of Indiana. The law essentially afforded more protections to business owners who might refuse service to customers on the basis of religious beliefs, raising concerns that it would open up opportunities for anti-LGBT discrimination across the state.
After much opposition, then-Governor Pence signed an amendment to the religious law to address concerns about the LGBT community, but his record on LGBT rights is widely criticized to this day. Opponents of Pence often point to his 2002 Congressional campaign platform — in which he wrote that "Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage," and pledged to oppose anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT community. Additionally, his association with gay conversion therapy is a clear indicator that the vice president is not an ally of LGBT individuals.
While Pence has remained relatively quiet about these issues since taking office, LGBT activists have not forgotten, particularly as the Trump administration has pursued legislative decisions that could endanger this community. They have reason to keep an eye on Pence — as McKay Coppins reported in his profile on the vice president for The Atlantic, the deeply religious politician has grand ambitions, and he may very well set his sights on the presidency next.
As entrepreneur Adam Best tweeted, the Aspen banner succeeded in striking a critical tone while sending a positive message.
Another example of an anti-Pence protester aiming to send a positive message was Mike Hot-Pence, a gay doppelgänger of the vice president who raises money for organizations like the Trevor Project, which provides crisis and suicide prevention for LGBT youth. If more people take cues from these activists, it's likely their messages will continue to resonate, even as Pence stays in power.