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Change.org Petition Protesting Mike Pence’s Selection to Deliver Commencement Address at Christian Taylor University

This isn’t the first time Pence has been at the center of a controversy on a university campus.

In May 2017, a group of more than 100 graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame walked out of their own graduation ceremony in protest of Pence, who delivered their commencement address there that morning.

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 at the time. “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.”

Pence has proven a most divisive figure on both sides of the political aisle. Although Donald Trump gained favor from the right when he picked the evangelical Indiana Governor as his vice presidential running mate, his choice received vigorous denunciations from the left.

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.

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Alan Jude Ryland