On Wednesday, The Indianapolis Star reported that Mike Pence's hometown will host a pride parade for the first time this spring. The organizer of the event is Erin Bailey, a high school senior from Columbus, Indiana (just like Pence), and she plans to hold the town's very first LGBTQ pride festival on April 14.
According to the Facebook page for the event, the pride parade will take place beginning 11:00 a.m. in downtown Columbus. People interested in the festival can expect to see food vendors and booths, according to Bailey.
The high school senior tells Bustle that her idea was to create positive change by holding this pride parade. Bailey says she thinks Pence is "openly anti-LGBT," but "it doesn't mean that the rest of us in his hometown are. There are plenty of people here that are in the LGBT community and that are LGBT friendly."
So, what does Pence think of this imminent parade? The vice president's press secretary Alyssa Farah told CNN that Pence was apparently happy to see the activists. "Vice President Pence commends Erin Bailey for her activism and engagement in the civic process. As a proud Hoosier and Columbus native, he's heartened to see young people from his hometown getting involved in the political process," Farah said.
Bailey, however, tells Bustle that "it's great that [Pence] acknowledged what I'm doing but I'm not sure how sincere it is."
Bailey's plan for a pride parade has received significant support online, at least when you look at her Columbus Pride Festival GoFundMe which has surpassed its $2,000 in slightly over a week. The money is for arranging the event, per Bailey.
"There will be food, vendors, educational booths, entertainment, and more! I need help getting funds in order to make posters, decorations, craft supplies, pride flags, and anything else that we might need. Anything helps," she said on her GoFundMe page.
Some people who support Bailey's idea say that it's somewhat risky due to its location. Samantha Aulick, a Columbus resident who spoke with The Hill on Wednesday, said, "It’s this massive undertaking and it’s political risky. ... We live in a conservative community." But Aulick told the publication that it she and her wife were excited for it.
"I remember there were no lesbians when I was growing up. I didn’t know they really existed … So it’s important to us that the younger generation know that there are adults who identify as LGBTQ in their community," Aulick told The Hill.
In all likelihood, Pence won't attend his hometown's pride parade even if his press secretary says that he's heartened by these youngsters. Critics have pointed out that the vice president is among the most strident an anti-LGBTQ figures in the Trump administration. Shortly after Donald Trump announced that Pence would be his vice presidential pick, LGBTQ groups highlighted Pence's conservative past and said that he was a threat to LGBTQ freedom and rights.
Some accused Pence of supporting "conversion therapy," a medically debunked and denounced practice of "changing" a gay person's sexuality through bogus "conversion." Pence's spokesman, Marc Lotter, told the New York Times that he did not support such a practice. But that didn't allay the fears of LGBTQ activists who pointed to Pence's record as the governor of Indiana.
In 2006, Pence argued against gay marriage, saying "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family." In 2015, he signed a religious freedom bill into law that allowed companies to refuse to service members of the LGBTQ community based on their religious beliefs.
In spite of Pence's views and possible anti-LGBTQ backlash, Bailey is stoked for April 14. There has been some pushback, she tells Bustle, but she's not worried. "I have had a few nasty comments on some articles saying stuff like 'and this is news because?' or something about liberals being brainwashed," she says.
When asked how she handles her opponents, Bailey had a simple response: "I've just been killing them with kindness."