As the predictable backlash to Indiana’s new “super mini-religious freedom law” has crushed in on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, he has defended it by saying mostly that there’s nothing new about the law (there is), that the flap it has generated is a just a “perception problem” and that people in Indiana, like him, believe in treating everyone equally, according to the Biblical Golden Rule, so there can’t really be anything about the bill that sanctions discrimination.
But Pence has stumbled repeatedly when asked whether the bill makes it legal for Hoosiers to deny service to gay people and about why the Republican lawmakers behind the bill would not accept amendments that guaranteed protections against discrimination.
The reason for the stumbling is certainly tied to the fact that Pence, a hardline social conservative and former talk-radio host, has long opposed protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people. His “Pence Agenda” from 2000, when he was first running for Congress, brims with the same mix of religious freedom cheerleading and anti-gay sentiment that he has had to repeatedly try to reconcile this week. That history helps explain why his defenses of the new law have come off as disingenuous and have been picked apart by fact checkers.
Under a section titled “Strengthening the American Family,” Pence makes clear where he stands on gay rights. He doesn’t believe in them because, at base, he appears to see gay people as degenerate and less-than-equal and a threat.
• Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.
• Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s as a “discreet and insular minority” entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.
• Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.[/blockquote]
The Pence Agenda is a sort of listicle mission statement, but it includes the kind of pandering bold statements and star-spangled rhetorical flourishes that mark it out as a document that a politician puts together when they’re running for a safe district and feel either as though they’re preaching to the choir or have to fend off primary opponents.
Here’s the introduction:
[blockquote]A Guide to Renewing the American Dream
“Join us in our cause which is simply this; to renew the American Dream.
We can renew the American dream by showing again that we can run campaigns built on a new politics of civility and mutual respect.
We can renew the American dream by lifting the burden of taxes off families, small businesses and family farms so they can once again dream and build a better life for their children and grandchildren.
We can renew the American dream by rekindling the fires of men, material and morale that warm the warriors who stand on liberty’s ramparts protecting our families.
We can renew the American dream by asserting again the constitutional rule of law and the unalienable right to life.”
This week Pence has been standing on “liberty’s ramparts” sighing, dodging, and backpedaling.