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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Still Won't Say 'Gay'

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Still Won't Say 'Gay'


The Indiana Republican managed to ignite a massive backlash for signing an allegedly homophobic law, yet continues to only utter the words 'gay' or 'lesbian' on rare occasions.

In the wake of plummeting poll numbers, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is still dancing around the issue that made his state the poster child of so-called license to discriminate legislation targeting LGBT people.

While announcing his reelection campaign Thursday, Pence addressed the nationwide controversy that his Religious Freedom Restoration Act caused when he signed it into law during a private ceremony (attended by several prominent anti-LGBT religious activists) in March.

"In Indiana, we won't tolerate discrimination against anyone," said Pence Thursday, alluding to the since-amended RFRA which opponents said gave Indiana businesses a right to refuse service to LGBT people.

"But Hoosiers also know, in the changing tides of popular culture, there must be room for faith," Pence added, according to the The Indianapolis Star. "We will find our way forward as a state that respects the dignity and worth of every individual, and we will ensure that no government intervention, no government coercion will interfere with the freedom of conscience and freedom of religion enshrined in our state and federal constitution."

Yet absent from the Republican's 15-minute speech, in which he acknowledged that "as your governor, I bear some responsibility" for "Hoosier hospitality [coming] under attack," was any explicit mention of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender citizens.

As the Star notes:

"Pence did not directly address a question likely to nag him throughout the campaign: Will he support statewide civil rights protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people?"

Pence's latest speech -- and what it omits -- is reminiscent of other comments the governor has made, where he appears to pointedly avoid saying the words "gay" or "lesbian."

An official letter from the governor's office earlier this month welcoming residents and visitors to Indianapolis Pride never mentioned LGBT people by name (or even by acronym), and included the word "pride" only in the letter's address to "Indy Pride, Inc."

At the height of the controversy over Indiana's RFRA in early April, Pence repeatedly refused to tell ABC's George Stephanopolous whether he believed the law as written empowered Hoosiers to discriminate against LGBT people.

"I don't support discrimination against gays or lesbians, or anyone else," the governor finally said in a tense exchange with the anchor. "I abhor discrimination. I want to say this: No one should be harassed because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe. I believe it with all my heart."

In that same interview, however, Pence acknowledged that he "will not push" for the state to update its nondiscrimination law to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, Pence, a former U.S. senator, is well-documented as a longtime opponent of such protections for LGBT people, despite his repeated claims that abhors discrimination.

Following weeks of national criticism and threats of boycotts from major companies outraged at what they saw as a discriminatory law, Pence ultimately signed a "fix" to Indiana's RFRA that stated it could not be used to deny service to LGBT people. But that revision marked the first time in Indiana history that a state law had directly referenced sexual orientation or gender identity. The state's current nondiscrimination act does not cover those characteristics, while the state is one of just five in the U.S. that have no form of hate-crimes law on the books.

Repeated attempts by The Advocate to reach Pence's office for comment received no response by press time.

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