President Trump once joked that Vice President Mike Pence wants to hang gay people, according to a new profile of Pence published Monday in the New Yorker.
Pence has been criticized for his far-right and homophobic views in the past. In the early '90s, he joined the Indiana Family Institute, a group that supported criminalizing abortion and campaigned against equal rights for gays. As a congressman and later the governor of Indiana, Pence has openly opposed same-sex marriage and gay anti-discrimination laws.
In the profile, Jane Mayer writes that President Trump enjoys needling Pence about his religiosity. She quotes two sources about a meeting with Pence in which the topics of abortion and gay rights arose:
During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”
Allegations that Pence supported gay conversion therapy dogged him throughout the presidential campaign. On an archived website for one of his congressional campaigns, Pence's position on HIV/AIDS funding included the stipulation that "Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." LGBT activists have interpreted that to mean gay-conversion programs, although Pence denied it.
As Indiana governor, Pence signed the 2015 Religious Freedom Act, which allowed businesses to discriminate against gays. There was a major outcry: Activists called for a boycott of the state, businesses canceled conventions and the NCAA criticized Pence's action. He later backed down and signed a less discriminatory version of the bill.
The New Yorker reports that Pete Buttigeg, the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had tried to talk to Pence about the potential economic fallout of the bill. “But he got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg recalled. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.”