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Mike Pence's Commencement Speech At Notre Dame Didn't Go So Well This Weekend

A group of more than 100 graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame walked out of their own graduation ceremony in protest of Vice President Mike Pence, who delivered their commencement address there yesterday morning. Some audience members cheered or booed in response, though only briefly.


A student activist group called We Stand For staged the walkout in response to policies Pence pursued as governor of Indiana that they say targeted the most vulnerable.

"We invite all students, faculty, and families who will be attending the Commencement ceremony to walk out with us as we take back our graduation and show our dissatisfaction with the University's selection of Mike Pence as honored speaker,” the group wrote. "We also will walk out in dignity and solidarity with all marginalized people affected by Pence's politics, both on this campus and throughout our nation."

President Donald Trump gained favor from the right when he picked the evangelical Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate last summer. 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.

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 LGBT youths. “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."

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.