Prizm News / June 11, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

VP will speak to a conservative group with anti-LGBTQ ties just as Pride weekend kicks off. A pro-LGBTQ celebration will take place outside his Downtown hotel. 

 

By Bob Vitale

The dark cloud of anti-LGBTQ Vice President Mike Pence won’t rain on Pride celebrations this weekend in Columbus. 

In fact, when he arrives Friday to address a conservative group with ties to two disgraced Trump administration loyalists, Pence will be greeted with dance music, drag queens and demonstrators outside the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel. 

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“It all kind of came together through Facebook over the weekend,” said Jay Smith, an organizer of what’s being billed as the Welcome Mike Pence LGBTQ Dance Party. As people shared their thoughts about the insult and irony of a visit by Pence during the city’s annual LGBTQ celebration, you-know-what-we-should-do comments quickly turned into action, Smith said. 

“Everyone threw in their part to help. Now we’re getting the word out.” 

The party/demonstration is scheduled for Friday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. outside the Renaissance hotel at 50 N. 3rd St. It’s right near the corner of 3rd and—appropriately—Gay. 

So far, DJ Moxy has signed on for music and Virginia West will perform. More drag queens and musicians are expected.  

Pence is considered a driver of the Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ civil rights.  

As a member of Congress, he wanted federal funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention to go to groups that promoted the dangerous and discredited practice of “conversion therapy.” He supported a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have restricted marriage rights to opposite-sex couples. 

As governor of Indiana, he signed what was called a “turn away the gays bill” that allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination cloaked under the guise of religious freedom. Indiana lost an estimated $250 million from an economic boycott, including $60 million in convention business that diverted away from Indianapolis. 

Pence is considered so dead-set against LGBTQ people and civil rights that Trump once joked the vice president “wants to hang them all.” 

He’s coming to Columbus on Friday to speak to a pro-Trump group called America First Policies, whose cofounders include Rick Gates, a former deputy campaign manager who pleaded guilty in February to financial fraud and perjury as part of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

In March, America First Priorities hired former Trump administration official Carl Higbie as its director of advocacy. Higbie resigned in January as chief of external affairs for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service after racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Islamic comments he made as a radio host were publicized. 

Among his offensive comments, Higbie said black people have “lax morals,” said the Muslim faith allows the rape of young boys, advocated letting people shoot with impunity anyone crossing the U.S. border illegally, and called U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein a “bitch.” 

Here’s what Higbie said about gay people in May 2013, according to CNN: 

“If I was president of the United States, I wouldn’t make laws saying you can’t be gay because I believe that’s your right. So go over there, be gay, don’t march down in the middle of the street and your drag outfit being fairies and things like that. Don’t throw it in my face. Don’t make me like it because I don’t. Do it on your own. Do it over there and let it be your thing.” 

Smith said it’s another example of the administration’s anti-LGBTQ views, which range from symbolic acts such as refusing to acknowledge June as Pride month and erasing all mention of LGBTQ people from federal websites to blocking plans for counting LGBTQ Americans in the next U.S. Census and eliminating nondiscrimination protections from federal policies. 

“We want to be there to hold both Mike Pence and Donald Trump accountable for their record of anti-LGBTQ positions,” Smith said. “We want people to know what the record is and what they’re doing.” 

Organizers also want to send a message of unity and support to fellow LGBTQ people. 

“Although the administration doesn’t have your back, we have your back,” Smith said. “It’s OK to live out and proud.” 

 

 

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com