Thursday, September 14, 2023

GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence sidesteps a question about protecting transgender Americans from violence


 When specifically asked what about what he would do as president to protect transgender Americans from violence, GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence gave an answer which completely ignored the question.

And while it shouldn't surprise anyone, it should get us all angry.

A mother of a transgender child broke down while confronting former Vice President Mike Pence about his LGBT policies during a NewsNation town hall on Wednesday. After Pence declared that as president he would “protect our kids from that radical gender ideology that’s taken hold in too many public schools,” moderator Leland Vittert called on a member of the audience, Melissa McCollister, to ask Pence a question. 

 McCollister, who could be seen crying, said: 

"Good evening, vice president. I am an LGBTQ member and I have trans individuals in my family. Recent anti-LGBTQ bills have been signed into law all around this United States, including here in Iowa. So far, in 2023, 15 transgender individuals and gender-nonconforming people have been murdered. The vast majority of those people have been Black and Latinx transgender women. It is very hard for me to ask these questions after just hearing what I heard. What is your policy plan to protect the transgender community, specifically Black and brown trans women from historically high levels of violence?"

This was Pence's answer: 

 Pence replied, “Well, Melissa, let me say I’m deeply grieved to hear about those tragic circumstances, and I hear your heart, and I’m moved by your emotion, I truly am,” before continuing: 

 "I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I have particular views of these matters and you have a different view of those, perhaps, but I want you to know I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the freedom of conscience, I believe in the right of every American to live, to work, to worship according to the dictates of their conscience and I’ll respect that. But I hope you also hear my heart on this. 

 For me, what adults do in their lives, decisions that they make, including transgender adults, is one thing, but for kids under the age of 18— there’s a reason why we don’t let you drive ’til you’re 16. In the state of Indiana, you can’t get a tattoo until after you’re 18, you can’t drink until after you’re 21, that’s because we understand that kids don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions … When it comes to surgical or chemical procedures, I just— I really believe that we’ve got to protect our kids from decisions that will affect them, the balance of their lives, while at the same time saying adults can make decisions according to the dictates of their own conscience." 

 Good Lord! That was a deliberate blow-off of her question.

 She didn't ask Pence about his personal beliefs. 

She didn't ask about gender-affirming healthcare.

And she certainly didn't ask for his thoughts and prayers.

She asked about action. She asked him what he would do to prevent violence against transgender Americans. 

How difficult would it have been for Pence say something generic about every American having the right to lead lives free of violence? How difficult would it have been for Pence to at least verbally denounced acts of violence against trans Americans?  

But no. Pence chose to repeat completely detached, obviously rehearsed (and very inaccurate) anti-trans talking points which have nothing to do with what McCloster asked. Pence claims to be a "Bible-believing Christian," but he can't give a constituent an honest answer or give her some assurance that he will protect her community from violence?  Excuse me? Mr. Pence, you are not running for Pastor of the United States. As president, you have a duty to protect all Americans from violence; not just the ones you deem worthy. And if you can't at least say that you would protect all Americans from violence, you need to drop out and let someone who will make that assurance take over.

Pence used his faith as a shield like the presidential candidate in the Stephen King novel, The Dead Zone, held up a child to dodge an assassin's bullet, but he didn't sidestep the question because he didn't have an answer. He sidestepped the question because he didn't want to give an answer. 

To remind folks, the question had nothing to do with his personal beliefs about transgender Americans. It had to do with how he would protect them from violence. And by his dodging, Pence gave us the unfortunate answer to the question.

Editor's note - This isn't the first time Pence has dodged direct questions when it comes to the rights and safety of LGBTQ people. In 2015 while he was Governor of Indiana, he was asked eight times by George Stephanopoulos​ of ABC's This Week if he opposed LGBTQ discrimination.

He would not give an answer: