News & Politics

Thousands of LGBT Activists Storm Mike Pence's Hometown for Gay Pride Event

Glen Pannell, of New York City, is dressed as Mike "Hot" Pence at the first-ever Columbus Pride Festival in downtown Columbus, Ind., Saturday, April 14, 2018. (Mike Wolanin /The Republic via AP)

More than 2,000 revelers and activists attended a gay pride event Saturday in Columbus, Indiana, the hometown of Vice President Mike Pence. The event included a man dressed up as Pence, along with drag queens and activists dressed in shirts mocking the vice president. While ralliers would claim to be celebrating LGBT identity, it seems their event focused more on mocking the vice president.

“Dear, Mike Pence, sorry you couldn’t come out to this awesome party that we’re having in your hometown,” organizer Erin Bailey said. “Hopefully you can make it next year and find some nice people.”

The LGBT activist organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) made clear the true reason it supported the event: to slam Pence. “Tomorrow, HRC will celebrate with local advocates at the first-ever LGBT Pride Festival in Columbus, Indiana — hometown of Vice President Mike Pence, whose political career has been predicated on anti-LGBTQ animus,” the organization announced in a statement.

“Spearheaded by Columbus high school senior Erin Bailey, organizers say they hope the event will reflect the growing diversity and commitment to inclusion evident in their community, despite Pence’s deplorable legacy,” HRC added.

Jennifer Pike Bailey, the organization’s senior public policy advocate, emphasized that “Erin Bailey is showing Mike Pence, who has a long, disturbing record of attacking and demonizing the LGBTQ community, that Hoosiers won’t stand for his brand of discriminatory policies.”

HRC attacked Pence’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed small business owners to opt out of providing wedding-related goods and services to same-sex weddings. This “license to discriminate” would have protected the conscience rights of people who support marriage as between one man and one woman.

The organization also attacked Pence for supporting President Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality in the military. Pence also supported a constitutional amendment declaring marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

More than 2,000 people attended the event, the Associated Press (AP) reported. While pictures showed smiling faces, they also revealed a firm hatred for Pence.

One smiling brunette woman wore a t-shirt with a dejected Mike Pence in front of an LGBT rainbow flag, with the text, “Have a gay day.”

One woman, who ironically chose the Twitter name “My Religion is Love,” tweeted at Pence, “SUCK IT PENCE, from Columbus Indiana.”

Glen Pannell, better known as “Mike Hot-Pence,” also caused quite a scene at the event. Pannell looks very similar to Pence, and he dresses up in a suit with a rainbow flag tie and no pants. Pannell raises money for Planned Parenthood, LGBT groups, and environmentalist activist organizations.

“Dear, Mike Pence, it’s Mike Hot-Pence here,” Pannell told HRC in a video from the event. “I am in Columbus, Indiana, your hometown to celebrate the first Gay Pride Festival. People are out. They are proud. They are joyful.”

Pannell turned to politics and a clear threat against the vice president. “They are showing the world that Mike Pence doesn’t represent Columbus. Columbus represents Columbus,” he said. “Most importantly, we are voting, and we are coming for you. So you better make some retirement plans because you’re going to be out of a job pretty soon.”

All this hatred for Mike Pence suggests a rather straightforward interpretation of the event. LGBT activists probably would not have gathered in Columbus this past weekend if Pence had not grown up in that city. In other words, the entire event wasn’t about “pride” or “love” — it was about political anger and perhaps even something akin to “hate.”

Last month, responding to the planned event, a Pence spokeswoman said the vice president “commends Erin Bailey for her activism.” Rather than attack the event, the spokeswoman said that  “as a proud Hoosier and Columbus native” Pence is “heartened to see young people from his hometown getting involved in the political process.”

Pence has not yet spoken about this event. While LGBT activists “celebrated” their identities and attacked the vice president, the conservative evangelical Christian who inspired the protest was in Peru, condemning the Venezuelan socialist government’s tyranny in preventing foreign aid from reaching the struggling people of that South American country. On Monday, Pence addressed the Space Symposium.

Pence supports religious freedom and many LGBT activists oppose the idea that Americans who disagree with same-sex marriage and transgenderism should be free to live out their beliefs and express them in public. The anger against him, contrasted with his classy response, suggests the “love is love” movement may not be quite as positive as activists suggest.