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What Will It Take for Mike Pence to Respect LGBTQ Americans?

The vice president’s bigotry was on display once again this week

Vice President Mike Pence walks offstage after speaking at 2019 March for Life dinner in WashingtonPence March for Life, Washington, USA - 18 Jan 2019

Vice President Mike Pence walks offstage after speaking at 2019 March for Life dinner in Washington Pence March for Life, Washington, USA - 18 Jan 2019

Cliff Owen/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Early Tuesday morning, Empire actor Jussie Smollett alleged he was attacked by two men while walking to an apartment in Chicago. Smollett, who is black, said that one of the attackers put a noose around his neck and poured an unidentified substance on him. According to the police, the two attackers were also “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs,” at Smollett, who is gay. Smollett also told the police that the attackers yelled, “MAGA country.”

“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in a statement released by his publicist on Friday. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly, I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”

It’s hardly surprising that the homophobic attack appears to have been perpetrated by supporters of the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence is explicitly anti-LGBTQ, and has been for a long time. Last month, it was revealed that his wife Karen had taken a teaching job at a school that prohibits LGBTQ students and faculty. Pence used his Christianity to justify his right to discriminate. “The criticism of Christian education in America should stop,” he said, adding that “major news organizations attacking Christian education is deeply offensive to us.”

The attack on Smollett is one of countless reminders that Pence is not just some bigoted old white guy leafing through the Bible for passages that will rationalize his hatred; he’s the vice president of the United States, and the Trump administration’s tacit endorsement of discrimination against the LGBTQ community only emboldens people to express their hate in public, including with violence. On Thursday night, the actress Ellen Page, who is gay, appeared on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert to tee off on Trump and Pence, essentially blaming the latter for the attack on Smollett:

“It feels impossible not to feel this way now with the president and Vice President Mike Pence, who wishes I couldn’t be married. Let’s just be clear. The vice president of America wishes I didn’t have the love I have with my wife. He wanted to ban that in Indiana. He believes in conversion therapy. He has hurt LGBTQ people so badly as the governor of Indiana, and I think what we need to know and I hope my show Gaycation did this in terms of connecting the dots to Jussie Smollett, I don’t know him personally, I send all my love. Connect the dots. This is what happens. If you are in a position of power and you hate people and you want to cause suffering to them, you go through the trouble, you spend your career trying to cause suffering, what do you think is going to happen? Kids are going to be abused and they’re going to kill themselves, and people are going to be beaten on the street.”

Rolling Stone reached out to Pence’s office for comment regarding Page’s remarks, or the alleged homophobic attack on Smollett, but did not receive an immediate response.

Page wasn’t the only one to publicly call out Pence this week. On Tuesday, Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves told the Daily Beast that Pence is more of a threat to America than President Trump. “Bush was a true believer; Trump doesn’t really try,” he said. “But I think the evangelicals are happy with Pence, and happy that he’s assigning the [federal judge] appointees,” said Greaves. “Trump is too stupid to predict; the guy has no concept of his own limitations. The thing that makes me most comfortable with Trump is the fact that he has no vision. Mike Pence really scares me: Pence has a clear, theocratic vision for the United States.”

Religious dogma is just about the only thing Pence has left to cling to. His dignity, his integrity and any other -ity connoting principle have been sacrificed in the name of the president. Since government began operating under a partial shutdown on December 21st, Pence has been lamely regurgitating Trump’s deranged rhetoric on border security. This week, he even came up with his own Trump-ian catch phrase in an attempt to drive home the need for a border wall.

As Kaczynski points out, “Mending Wall,” the Robert Frost poem Pence is most definitely anti-wall:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go. 
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

It’s probably a safe bet that Robert Frost would not have gotten along with Vice President Pence very well, either.

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