Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon had harsh words for Vice President Mike Pence, questioning his fitness to lead the U.S. delegation to South Korea for the upcoming Winter Games. Rippon cited as reasons for his disdain Pence's profoundly conservative views on marriage equality and LGBT rights, as well as his record of supporting “conversion therapy” for LGBT youths.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it,” Rippon told USA Today.
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon continued. "To stand by some of the things that [President] Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory.If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shitholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
Rippon acknowledged that his skating obligations could prevent him from meeting Pence during the official meet-and-greet which takes place between the official delegation and the US athletes just before the opening ceremony, but vowed not to “go out of his way” to meet the vice president––even if time permits.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they are sick," Rippon said. "I would not go out of my way to meet somebody like that.” He added: “If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation. He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump... But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
Speaking to reporters, Alyssa Farah, who is the vice president’s press secretary, denied the allegation that Pence supports conversion therapy. “The accusation is totally false with no basis in fact. But despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the US athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang,” she said.
Does––or did––Vice President Pence support conversion therapy?
As a candidate for Congress in the 1990s, Pence’s campaign website included a statement which appeared to indicate his support for conversion therapy for LGBTs. “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” the website said. A spokesman for Pence told reporters that Pence’s statement was misconstrued, insisting that “any assertion that Vice President-elect Pence supported or advocated for conversion therapy is patently false and is a mischaracterization of language from a 16-year old campaign website.”
President Donald Trump gained favor from the right when he picked the evangelical Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate in the summer of 2016. A former GOP leader who served in the chamber for nearly a decade, Pence fulfilled Trump’s need for someone who could work closely with the executive branch. Pence’s record for social conservatism has drawn harsh condemnation from LGBT and abortion rights advocates.
As governor of Indiana, Pence approved the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a measure allowing businesses to discriminate against consumers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. A fierce backlash from business and the tourist industry, along with a trending hashtag #BoycottIndiana, forced the governor and state legislatures there to add an amendment clarifying that nothing in the law was intended to permit discrimination.
In 2006, as head of the Republican Study Committee, Pence voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage legislation when he declared “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”
Similarly, Pence has also pledged his support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would prohibit “the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” FADA would also eliminate federal remedies for discrimination and allow those committing discriminatory acts to sue the federal government for interfering in their “right” to discriminate against LGBTs.
Pence is also known for his controversial stands on reproductive rights. In March of 2016, Pence signed HEA 1337, one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. A federal judge eventually struck down the measure, which banned abortions due to fetal abnormalities and required that both miscarried and aborted fetuses be cremated.