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Why Did Mike Pence Ask for a “Closed Event” with Ireland’s Openly Gay Leader?

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Leo Varadkar , photo via Wikimedia Commons

Today, Vice President Mike Pence‘s breakfast with openly gay Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was to be closed to the press at the request of the Veep. So, Pence will not allow himself to have a meal alone with a female that is not his wife, but he is fine with dining with a gay guy. I suppose he believes he can control his animal instincts with Varadkar, but I don’t know, the Irishman is kind of hot.

Varadkar is the “Taoiseach” of Ireland, a role which comprises the titles of prime minister, chief executive and head of government. The word means “chieftain” in Irish and was adopted in the 1937 Constitution of Ireland.

Besides being the first openly gay Irish government minister, Varadkar is also the first of Indian descent. He took office in June 2017.

Last year, Pence enjoyed a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast with Enda Kenny, the Irish PM at the time, that was open the the media. The difference this year could possibly be Varadkar’s visibility as an openly gay man as well as Pence’s long record of opposing LGBTQ Rights. We wonder if Pence’s stance on gay conversion therapy might be discussed at the breakfast.

Ahead of his meeting with Pence, Varadkar said he wanted to bring up LGBTQ rights at the meeting.

The request for a private meeting came from the Pence camp and was confirmed Thursday by the White House.

Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Pence, released this statement about the Friday breakfast:

“The Vice President and the Prime Minister met and spoke together at multiple events today. Tomorrow’s informal breakfast is setup like every breakfast the Vice President has had with a foreign leader following their meetings at the White House. The press will be in attendance to cover the Prime Minister’s arrival and the Vice President greeting him.

Varadkar stated that he would have preferred that his meeting with Pence be open to the public but added that a private session might allow for more “frank conversation”.

Varadkar became the first openly gay Irish government minister in 2015, during debate over an amendment to the Irish constitution to allow Marriage Equality that was eventually passed. Ireland was the first nation on our pretty spinning blue orb to have Marriage Equality by popular referendum. The measure passed by a large margin.

Varadkar is the youngest Taoiseach in the history of Ireland. He is just 38-year-old. His partner is Matthew Barrett, who, like Varadkr, is a medical doctor. Varadkar studied medicine at Trinity University in Dublin. Both men are fitness nuts. Prior to his election, Varadkr stated that he would not expect Barrett to accompany him on official government business (the couple are not married), and he was not invited to the Pence breakfast.

Varadkar is currently one of three openly gay world heads of state; Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel and Ana Brnabić of Serbia are the others. Previous LGBTQ world leaders are former Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and former Prime Minister of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurõardóttir.

Pence, who is of Irish descent, and his lovely wife, Karen, spoke to the press at last year’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities about their excitement at being able to invite a “special guest to the White House”… meaning Kenny.

But, this year is different and Varadkar’s comments in recent days may be a reason why. When asked whether he would talk to Pence about the Veep’s stance on conversion therapy, Varadkar stated:

“I am told Vice President Pence is not a supporter of conversion therapy even though some people have mentioned he is. But I imagine I will have the opportunity, I am going to be meeting him over breakfast on Friday morning, so if I have the opportunity I will certainly be mentioning the wider issue of equal rights and freedoms for LGBTQ citizens.”

The issue of conversion therapy has dogged Pence since a statement was posted on his campaign website during his run for Congress in 2000. Sometimes referred to as Reparative Therapy, Ex-Gay Therapy or Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), some mental health professionals used extreme measures such as institutionalization, castration, and electroconvulsive shock therapy to try to stop people from being LGBTQ. Today, some counselors still use these treatments to try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity. Their treatments are devoid of scientific validity and pose serious dangers to patients, especially to minors, who are often forced to undergo them by their parents, and who are at especially high risk of being harmed.

By Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine via Wikimedia Commons

The wording used by Pence 18-years ago is language that allows his supporters to recognize to what he is referring. The campaign statement said in part:

“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Farah:

“The vice president has never supported conversion therapy and does not support it now. Any reports to the contrary are patently false. He has been abundantly clear on the matter.”

Except, it is not clear. Pence has suggested homosexuality is a choice and has declined to say whether or not he believes conversion therapy has merit.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Pence has a long record of opposing LGBTQ rights while he served as an Indiana congressman, including advocating for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, opposing measures to protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination in the workplace, and opposing lifting the military’s ban on gays serving openly. While governor of Indiana, he signed a “Religious Freedom” law that allowed for Christian businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Irish-Americans are one of the largest ethnic groups in the USA. Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland, especially those who identify with that ancestry, and their cultural characteristics number about 34 million, or 10.5% of the total population. Compare that with 6.5 million on the island of Ireland. That makes the USA the largest Irish country on the planet. Melania Trump is not Irish, but she has had a little Irish in her.

Among some of our favorite Americans who are at least of part-Irish descent: Joe Jonas, Anne Hathaway, Beyoncé, Lindsay Lohan, Joe Biden, Alec Baldwin, Molly Shannon, George Clooney, Kathy Griffin and Patrick Dempsey. POTUS’s favorite Irish-American is Rosie O’Donnell. Oh, and Barack Hussein Obama II is part Irish also.


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