Mike Pence is NOT anti-gay – I’m a gay man who knows he’s been falsely accused

President Trump made a bold declaration in his State of the Union address Tuesday calling on “Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.”

The House chamber erupted in an ovation – and among the first to stand applauding was Vice President Mike Pence.

If that doesn’t seem like the response one would expect from an anti-gay bigot who supports so-called “gay conversion therapy,” that’s because it isn’t.

Despite false accusations made against him, Mike Pence is not anti-gay.

As a gay man myself – and someone who not only cares deeply about these issues but advocated on behalf of the LGBT community myself for years – this is not an assertion I make lightly.

INSIDE TRUMP'S PLAN TO END THE HIV EPIDEMIC AND WHAT SPARKED IT

There is absolutely nothing – nothing at all – in Mike Pence’s record to indicate he sees himself as a culture warrior who believes LGBT Americans are the enemy.

Yet false accusations that the evangelical stalwart is a virulent homophobe who went out of his way to target gay people for harassment, oppression, and even physical torture have dogged Pence for years.

The claim resurfaced last week, when lesbian actress Ellen Page appeared as a guest on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS. Page used a discussion of the recent alleged racist and homophobic hate crime against “Empire” television star Jussie Smollet to criticize the vice president.

There is absolutely nothing – nothing at all – in Mike Pence’s record to indicate he sees himself as a culture warrior who believes LGBT Americans are the enemy.

“Vice President Mike Pence who, like, wishes I couldn’t be married. Let’s just be clear,” the “Gaycation” star said. “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.”

Page continued: “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.”

Page’s words represent a distillation of every anti-gay charge that has ever been hurled at Mike Pence – and they’re all false.

At the root of the vice president’s erroneous mislabeling as an anti-gay extremist is Pence’s admittedly poor handling of the passage of Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 during his term as governor of the state.

The legislation asserted that government “may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion” – a rather specific law with narrow applications.

Although similar legislation was passed at the federal level in 1993 after it was approved 97-3 in the U.S. Senate and signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, liberals pounced with declarations that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would open a door to rampant discrimination.

Opponents of the law claimed it would allow any business in Indiana to refuse service to members of the LGBT community simply by citing “deeply held beliefs.” Of course, that wasn’t the case, but the false narrative spread across the nation, sparking outrage.

Pence went on the offensive, declaring: “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn't eat there anymore,” while calling for a détente between advocates of religious liberty and those working toward LGBT equality.

The kerfuffle concluded with just such a rapprochement. The Republican-controlled Indiana state Legislature passed – and Pence signed – an amended version of Religious Freedom Restoration Act that stated it could not be used to discriminate against the LGBT community.

Pence then became the first governor in Indiana history to sign protections into law based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” – hardly the actions of an anti-LGBT crusader.

After ascending to become then-candidate Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick, false accusations of homophobia against Pence arose again.

Soon slanderous memes started appearing online falsely stating that Pence wanted to use electric shock treatments to “shock” the gay out of people.

Speaking on MSNBC last year, liberal activist Brandon Wolf said Pence wanted to round up gay people and put them in “concentration camps” –  a ludicrous assertion that was not questioned by  host Joy Reid.

“The accusation is totally false with no basis in fact,” Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, responded when questioned about the conversion therapy smear.

When asked for proof of Pence’s penchant for converting people from gay to straight, the best – indeed the only – example people provide is a 19-year-old entry in a campaign website in which Pence stated he supported reauthorizing HIV/AIDS funding only if resources were “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Changing one’s “sexual behavior” is far different than changing one’s “sexual orientation.” In fact, at the time of Pence’s proclamation, LGBT advocates were working to promote safer sexual behaviors themselves with condom distribution programs and public education campaigns about HIV transmission.

Pence proudly and personally conducted the swearing-in of United States Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell with a Bible held by Grenell’s longtime partner Matt Lashey.

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“I know (Mike Pence),” Grenell tweeted in response to Ellen Page’s “Late Show” attack. “He’s kind, personable, smart and a man of great faith.”

Despite the continued wails of liberals intent on keeping the lie alive about his supposed homophobia, Mike Pence has acted with grace, a spirit of inclusion, and a commitment to be a vice president for all Americans.

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