The comment was ridiculed by LGBT advocates who said one meal with a gay person does not make up for what they say is the vice president’s record speaking and working against gay rights.
“We can’t believe we have to say this but simply meeting with a gay person doesn’t erase Pence’s long history of attacking LGBTQ people through policy, legislation, and rhetoric,” the LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD tweeted. “Nice try though.”
The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement, “it’s important to remember this lunch has nothing to do with LGBTS rights it’s literally just with an LGBTQ person.”
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law that would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against people based on their sexuality — he later signed an amended version after a nationwide outcry. Pence has called same-sex marriage a sign of “societal collapse” and opposed expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of South Bend, Ind., mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, responded to Deere’s assertion about Pence’s lunch.
“I’ve sat at tables with people who would gladly deny me the right to marry, who openly support conversion therapy, and who adamantly believe being gay is a choice. Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal,” said Buttigieg, who would be the nation’s first “first man” if his husband won the White House.
Earlier this year, Pete Buttigieg publicly sparred with Pence, saying in an April speech that his marriage moved him closer to God.
“That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me,” Buttigieg said. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Pence is traveling in Europe this week in place of President Trump who stayed behind to monitor Hurricane Dorian. After Pence’s lunch with Varadkar, the first openly gay leader of Ireland, the men exchanged pleasantries in a joint news statement.
“Six months ago, our family had the great pleasure of hosting you and Matt at the Vice President’s Residence to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It was the second year in a row that you had given us that honor,” Pence said.
Pence closed his remarks with an Irish blessing: “To you, Taoiseach [Prime Minister], and all of the good people of Ireland, may the road rise to meet you, may the wind be at your back, may the rain fall softly on your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”