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Mike Pence Criticized HIV Activists While President of Antigay Think Tank

Mike Pence Criticized HIV Activists While President of Antigay Think Tank

Pence broadcasting on The Mike Pence Show in the 1990s
Pence broadcasting on The Mike Pence Show in the 1990s

Did he really object to an HIV-positive 12-year-old addressing the Republican convention?

Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence was the president of an antigay think tank that criticized the inclusion of HIV-positive speakers at the 1996 Republican National Convention.

From 1991 to 1994, Pence ran Indiana Policy Review, a conservative group that has a journal of the same name. Two years after he stepped down from the post, the current governor of Indiana claimed that the '96 convention was an "endless line of pro-choice women, AIDS activists and proponents of affirmative action."

"[They] may have stuck a chord with the Washington press corps," Pence wrote. "They bombed, however, in Peoria."

Held in San Diego, that year's Republican convention featured Mary Fisher, who was a Republican White House staffer during the Ford administration. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush tapped Fisher as a representative on the National Commission on AIDS. Hydeia Broadbent, a 12-year-old girl living with HIV, joined Fisher onstage for the address. Fisher had spoken movingly at the 1992 convention as well.

But according to Pence, Fisher didn't represent the values of the Republican Party.

"The sad truth is that the Republican Party for all its success in generating media praise for the convention failed to present the personalities or principles of interest to its base constituency, the modern Reagan coalition," he wrote, adding: "Like it or not, traditional Pro-Family conservatives make up the bedrock of modern Republican electoral success."

Right Wing Watch, which reported on Pence's writings, does grant that he likely wasn't targeting Fisher or Broadbent personally: "It is doubtful that Pence's objection was to these specific 'AIDS activists.' His objection was likely that at the time, HIV/AIDS was still viewed as a gay issue. Pence clearly did not consider LGBT individuals part of the 'pro-family' party he envisioned the GOP to be."

During Pence's tenure, Right Wing Watch notes, the Indiana Policy Review "published several anti-gay pieces."

In August 1993, Col. Ronald Ray, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, published an article markedly similar in tone to Pence's remarks about the convention. Ray wrote in defense of the military's ban on service by gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, arguing that allowing them to serve openly would endanger the military.

"Homosexuals are not as a group able bodied," he wrote. "They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle."

The piece further claimed that gay people are pedophiles, stating that "the love between man and boys is at the foundation of homosexuality."

Another antigay article included "The Pinked Newsroom." Published in the December 1993 issue, Indiana Policy Review denounced TheWall Street Journal for attending an LGBT job fair to recruit new staffers.

The publication further argued that gay journalists must disclose their sexual orientation in reporting -- to prevent them from pushing a pro-LGBT agenda. "The more extreme of the gay movement consider themselves members of a sexual determined political party," the journal stated.

This isn't the first time that Pence's anti-LGBT history has come to light.

During his 2000 run for Congress, Pence proposed gutting funding for HIV patients in favor of conversion therapy, the dangerous and widely discredited practice of "curing" same-sex desires. "Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior," Pence wrote on his campaign website. The GOP platform at the 2016 Republican convention supported the use of "ex-gay" conversion therapy.

As the governor of Indiana, Pence would sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 2015 law that made it legal to deny services to LGBT customers based on one's "sincerely held religious beliefs." That law was "fixed" following a $60 million boycott of the state.

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