The Hypocrisy of Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Image Source: Gage Skidmore

Image Source: Gage Skidmore

Indianapolis, Indiana (TFC) – When Mike Pence ran for Indiana Congress in 2000, his webpage read like a war against the very people he now claims he “abhors” discriminating against.  Let us take a moment to give thanks to Internet Archive. This online library takes snapshots of webpages, and saves the information for future viewing. It is basically high tech microfiche.  Mike Pence’s website from 2000 no longer exists, but his digital footprint has become permanent.  We can clearly see his true feelings about the recent issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Below are some of the highlights and topics that Mike Pence campaigned for.


“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 [sic] as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.”


In 1988 and 1990, Mike Pence tried to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and lost each time. Apparently, his third time was a charm. In 2000, Pence ran for, and won, a seat in Congress, and represented Indiana’s 2nd District. To get there, Pence made it clear to voters who he would be targeting.


Under headings like “Restoring Moral Integrity,” and “Strengthening the American Family,” Pence outlined his “Guide to Renewing the American Dream,” which all but outright declared a war against the LGBT community.


Pence called for “An end to gender mixed basic training and gender mixed housing on military bases,” “An end to assigning women to combat support units,” and, “An end to the ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ policy of permitting homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion.”
Pence said Tuesday he will back an amendment to the state’s new “Religious Freedom” law, clarifying that it does not allow businesses to deny service to anyone, and insisted that he never intended to discriminate against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.


“That is so offensive to me as a Hoosier,” Pence said during a press conference in Indianapolis, casting himself, the GOP-controlled General Assembly, and the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act as victims of “mischaracterizations” perpetrated by the media and the law’s opponents.


“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate, or a right to deny services to gays, lesbians or anyone else in this state. And it certainly wasn’t my intent,” he added. “But I can appreciate that that’s become the impression — not just here in Indiana, but all across this country.”  He essentially pulled an Obama by saying what you want to hear knowing damn well he has no control over what the legislature does. He can get on TV and ask pretty please, but it’s up to the GOP Super majority (who for the most part subscribe to the same sentiments) in the statehouse to fix this.


Pence and the Indiana Legislature were warned – in advance – that this RFRA was very different than the ones passed in other states. An 11 page letter dated Feb. 27, 2015 was sent to Rep. Ed DeLaney from 30 expert law professors in religious freedom and civil rights (12 from IU law schools) giving their opinion on Indiana’s then proposed RFRA.


“In our expert opinion, the clear evidence suggests otherwise and unmistakably demonstrates that the broad language of the proposed state RFRA will more likely create confusion, conflict, and a wave of litigation that will threaten the clarity of religious liberty rights in Indiana while undermining the state’s ability to enforce other compelling interests. This confusion and conflict will increasingly take the form of private actors, such as employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so. Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer’s, their landlord’s, their local shopkeeper’s, or a police officer’s private religious beliefs.”


The Indiana Legislature pushed on with this bill anyway, very quickly, and before Hoosiers had time to realize what was happening.  I’m sure that was intended.  Pence then closed himself off from the people of this state, shut off his phones, and signed the bill in a closed room with a staged photo and no media present.  The media was not allowed to interview the people who were in the photo.


What RFRA does, is it codifies a problem that already existed in Indiana that very few people really even know exists. Indiana has a total of fourteen different anti-discrimination policies/ordinances that aren’t going to be affected by the RFRA. There’s one problem that does exist. All of these anti-discrimination policies/ordinances apply to only employment.  Sexual orientation is not a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At this point it probably should be, and everyone with their ridiculous “Recall Pence” petitions should do something useful with that energy to petition Congress to put legislation in place that would protect the LGBT community.


There are also no Indiana laws that prohibit general discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Four months ago, a shopkeeper could have told a homosexual person, “We don’t serve your kind here!” and it would have been perfectly legal. Four months from now when the RFRA takes effect, a shopkeeper could tell a homosexual person, “We don’t serve your kind here!”, and it will still be perfectly legal.


The RFRA didn’t create legalized discrimination because legalized discrimination was always in Indiana. This is a significant problem, and is a discussion that needs to be had. Battling over what is, in essence, an administrative law that mirrors federal legislation, the legislation in 19 other states, and judicial decisions in 10 more on how Free Exercise claims should be judged is a waste of time.


Battling to amend the Civil Rights Act or to place a general anti-discrimination statute on the Indiana books is what everyone should to be doing. The problem at hand has now been properly identified. Direct your efforts towards an actual problem, not an imagined one.


RFRA is purposely written to pander to a certain group of voters, and therefore scares another group of voters.  This is now causing businesses to not want to do business in Indiana one by one like falling dominoes. The backlash over everyone being ill-informed due to the lack of transparency prior to Pence’s signing of RFRA is going to lead to some economic consequences for the state.


For starters, Credit ratings agencies are considering the need to downgrade Indiana because we may not be able to meet our bond obligations due to lost convention revenue. Will the General Assembly take responsibility for lost revenue because of their nonsense? Or will we just have to pay higher taxes to re-coupe the losses? Governor Pence’s attempt to explain it in Tuesday’s press conference was nothing but smoke and mirrors.


Remember, Pence was a lawyer so he knows how to be persuasive and convince people of his side of an argument based on the language of a law, but don’t let him pull the wool over your eyes. He’s a bought and paid for salesman of the highest bidder. There are certain groups, both individual and corporate, who are already funneling massive amounts of cash to get this guy in the White House. Does his attitude and stance seem very Presidential to you? How hypocritical would it be to continue to put politicians like Mike Pence into office in order to represent us, “We the People,” when he has made it blatantly clear he is not capable of those duties?


Mike Pence’s Congressional campaign website from 2000


February letter from Columbia Law professors