Pence’s Obfuscation and Evasion Proves That New Indiana Law is a ‘License to Discriminate’
Pence Screen
CHICAGO – In one of the worst interview appearances in recent memory, Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence came across as defiant and evasive on ABC’s This Week with  George Stephanopoulos. When pressed on whether Indiana would allow discrimination against LGBT people, Pence looked like a deer caught in the headlights and ultimately punted.

“Mike Pence’s shifty appearance was disastrous,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Pence answered direct questions about whether Indiana would allow discrimination against LGBT people with double talk and duplicity. His non-answers and combative demeanor prove that Indiana’s new ‘religious freedom’ law is nothing more than an elaborate smokescreen for targeting LGBT people.”

Instead of taking responsibility for signing a bad law, Pence doubled down, calling the public reaction a “red herring” and a “gross mischaracterization.” He went on to say, “I’m proud that Indiana has adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Instead of ameliorating legitimate concerns, Pence tried to blame the media: “Some of the media coverage of this has been shameless and reckless and the online attacks against the people of our state, I’m not going to stand for it.”

Host George Stephanopoulos pointed out that Advance America, a key supporter of the law, wrote on its website: “Christian bakers, florists, and photographers, should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!”

Stephanopoulos asked: “So, this is a yes or no question. Is Advance America right when they say a florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment.”

Pence looked lost and repeatedly failed to answer this question, instead choosing to change the subject. Stephanopoulos probed further asking: “One fix that people are talking about is adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the states civil rights laws. Will you push for that?”

“I will not push for that,” said Pence. “That’s not on my agenda. That’s not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana. And it doesn’t have anything to do with this law.”

The public relations nightmare for Pence continued with Stephanopoulos pinning down Indiana’s embattled governor. “Yes or no,” asked Stephanopoulos, “should it be legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians?”

“George, you are following the mantra of the last week online,” Pence waffled. “And you are trying to make this issue about something else. What I am for is protecting with the highest standards in our courts the religious liberty of Hoosiers.”

Pence went on to offer meaningless, disingenuous platitudes such as, “Hoosiers don’t believe in discrimination” and legally unprotected LGBT people could feel secure against potential bigotry because of “Hoosier hospitality.”

“Pence’s non-answers and pregnant pauses were revealing,” said Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen. “It is absolutely hypocritical for Pence to claim that Indiana’s Christians need legal protections, while its LGBT citizens are left to depend on ‘Hoosier hospitality.’ While most Indiana citizens are indeed likable, this is no substitution for laws that prohibit discrimination.”

Perhaps, the most egregious part of the interview was when Pence, who signed a mean-spirited, predatory law that singles out minorities for discrimination, tried to pose as the victim. He called the fallout from the law “breathtaking” and combatively said, “from people who preach tolerance everyday we’ve been under an avalanche of intolerance and I’m not going to take it lying down.”

“Whether Pence is standing up or lying down – or jogging on a treadmill for what it’s worth – it is inescapable that his failed leadership has brought catastrophic damage to the reputation of Indiana,” said Truth Wins Out’s Besen. “The business community is reevaluating its relationship with the state and fair-minded Americans are reconsidering their travel plans.”

Pence left wiggle room for addressing the outrage, placing the burden on state lawmakers to send him an updated bill, which would (based on Pence’s comments) likely come up short and please no one.

“We’re not going to change the law, okay, but if the General Assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is…then I’m open to that.”

Last week, Truth Wins Out released a video in its “Flipping the Script on Religious Freedom” campaign, to highlight the real-world consequences of laws that purport to protect religious liberty, when in reality they only promote exclusion. In the new video, which already has 17,000 views, we show how such laws can open a can of worms and backfire on the “Christian” sponsors of such bills.

On Saturday, Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen addressed the Indiana law on “I’ve Got Issues,” his radio show on WCPT Chicago. He interviewed New York Times columnist Frank Bruni and National Center for Lesbians Rights legal director, Shannon Minter, about the damaging new law.

Truth Wins Out (TWO) is a non-profit organization that works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice. Our philosophy is simple: We attack the underpinnings of homophobia by debunking harmful lies, discrediting hateful myths, and countering anti-gay organizations. By chipping away at the underlying ignorance that fuels anti-LGBT attitudes, we can ultimately win our fight for fairness and achieve full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people worldwide.