Xtra Weekly
2 min

Mike Pence dines with Ireland’s gay Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Here’s your Xtra Weekly, September 6

US Vice President Mike Pence (L) shake hands with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) and during a press conference in Dublin, Ireland on Sept 3. Credit: Aidan Crawley/ STREPA, Francesca Roh/Xtra

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WEEKLY EXPLAINER

US Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence met and dined with Ireland’s openly gay Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar and his partner, Dr Mike Barrett, during the vice president’s visit to Dublin on Tuesday.

Here’s the background 👉During his state visit in Ireland, Pence and his wife met up with Varadkar and Barret. The meeting came as a surprise, mainly because Pence is known to hold anti-LGBTQ2 views.

Chad Griffin, former president of the Human Rights Campaign, told The Fix reporter Eugene Scott that Pence “has made attacking the rights and dignity of LGBT people a cornerstone of his political career — not just a part but a defining part of his career.” 🍵

And there are receipts 👉Over the course of his political career, Pence has opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and has publicly stated his stance against same-sex marriage. He disagreed with the Obama administration’s directive on transgender bathrooms, which stated that people have the right to choose the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity. Pence also voted against passing legislation that would have protected queer people in the workplace.

Pence’s wife, Karen, also shares in the infamy. It was revealed that she was teaching at an anti-LGBTQ school and, during Varadkar’s visit to the US in March, she was criticized for travelling to the United Arab Emirates — a country where homosexuality is criminalized.

So, did they talk about this stuff during the meeting? Unfortunately, no. Pence and Varadkar’s meeting was very diplomatic (and bland, tbh). They didn’t discuss LGBTQ rights, focusing instead on foreign policy. 👁

In a tweet, Vice President Pence said: “Since the beginning of our republic, there has been a remarkable bond between our two nations. Thanks to the leadership of President @realDonaldTrump and Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar, the relationship between the United States and Ireland has never been stronger.”

Wild. What’s the reaction? The reaction to the meeting was mixed. Some used the meeting to dispute claims that Pence is homophobic. Pretty much saying, how could he be homophobic if he dines with gays?

Jude Deere, an openly gay staff member in the White House, tweeted: “For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland. 🇮🇪 @merrionstreet.”

However, Deere’s sentiment quickly drew fire.

Chasten Buttigieg, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s husband, responded to Deere’s tweet: “I’ve sat at tables with people who would gladly deny me the right to marry, who openly support conversion therapy and who adamantly believe being gay is a choice. Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal.”