Tuesday Night’s Vice Presidential Debate Was A Slap In the Face To LGBT Americans

Tuesday Nights Vice Presidential Debate Was A Slap In the Face To LGBT Americans

Last night’s Vice Presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana was sloppy, obnoxious, contentious mess, and probably the most childish Vice Presidential debate in American history.   What was supposed to be the nice-guy tête-à-tête was instead a snippy, tit-for-tat exchange.  In the key of conventional politics Mr. Pence’s most controversial moment as a national figure — and the biggest stumble of his political career — came after he signed a law in Indiana that critics had warned would allow businesses to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Facing an enormous backlash, Mr. Pence first defended the law and then walked it back. The episode seemed likely to tarnish him as a national figure in a lasting way.

But neither Tim Kaine nor the debate moderator, Elaine Quijano of CBS News who lacked the strength to control the two over-grown prep schoolboys raised the issue Tuesday night. The lone mention of gay rights came when Mr. Kaine noted that Mr. Putin “persecutes L.G.B.T. folks and journalists”.  

That is all. The only mention.  That in itself was deplorable, insulting, and a major disappointment.

Quijano, did ask about bias among our police force against African-Americans, for confronting Pence about how exactly his boss plans to deport millions of people. But to not ask Pence about his level of responsibility for a culture of hate against LGBT people is itself irresponsible. To instead ask Pence about how his faith plays a role in his governing only adds to the insult.  And because of this Pence now appears likely to escape the 2016 election without any extensive airing of this formative anti-gay moment in his career doing not only a disservice to the LGBT America but to all voting Americans as well.

Since Mr. Kaine and Elaine Quijano  seemed to ”overlook”  Pence’s extreme views on homosexuality, here’s a rundown:

*In 2015, Pence signed a law that would allow business owners to legally turn away LGBT people on the basis of their “religious freedom”

*He opposed federal funding for low-income people suffering from HIV/AIDS…

*Unless funding was also “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In other words, Pence advocated for conversion therapy.

*He campaigned against adding LGBT protections to hate crime laws

*He said “homosexuality is incompatible with military service“

*Naturally, he’s against same-sex marriage—he tried to block it once it was legalized in his state of Indiana

“Societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family,” Pence said in 2006.

But to be fair Kaine has never been a die-hard LGBT advocate politician.

Kaine came out in favor of marriage equality in 2013, just two weeks after his would-be boss announced her support. Up until then, when it came to marriage equality, Kaine was a cross between a pretzel and a waffle.

It began in 2001, when Kaine expressed his support for “civil benefits” for gay couples, something he made clear was not marriage or civil unions. When Massachusetts legalized same-sex weddings in 2003, Kaine issued a statement that went further than necessary in distancing himself from the court ruling.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is the building block of the family and a keystone of our civil society,” Kaine, who was lieutenant governor at the time, declared. It has been so for centuries in societies around the world. I cannot agree with a court decision suddenly declaring that marriage must now be redefined to include unions between people of the same gender.”

The real test came in 2006, when Kaine was governor. By veto-proof margins, the legislature passed a bill to put an anti-marriage amendment on the ballot. Kaine opposed the measure, saying it went too far in forbidding civil unions, but he signed it nonetheless.

Fast forward to 2012, while running for his Senate seat.  Kaine proclaimed himself in favor of “relationship equality.” Did that mean marriage? Well, not exactly.

“The labels get in the way of the issue,” Kaine said.

All of this was the classic attempt of a middle-of-the-road Democrat to find a middle-of-the-road solution. He was trying to split the baby. Unfortunately, we were the baby.

And last night Tim Kaine didn’t even split us.  He ignored us.  He ignored LGBT Americans. Purposely.



Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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