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Trump jokes Pence is hostile to gays

by Lisa Keen

An article in the current New Yorker magazine quotes President Donald Trump as "joking" that Vice President Mike Pence is so hostile to gays he "wants to hang them all."

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who's long opposed equal rights for LGBTs, dispatched a Justice Department prosecutor to help with a hate crime case in Iowa in which a trans person was murdered.

The New Yorker article, "The Danger of President Pence" by Jane Mayer, in the October 23 issue, discusses why Pence could be more dangerous for liberals and progressives than Trump.

Pence's involvement with anti-gay politics began years ago with a friendship with Paul Weyrich, according to the article. Weyrich, founder of various right-wing organizations, used anti-gay messages as a way to rally conservative voters. It continued in the 1990s when he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, which "campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals." When he ran as a Republican for Congress in 2000, his platform promised to oppose "any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws."

Most notably, when he was governor of Indiana, Pence signed a "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" that enabled employers to discriminate against LGBT people. And according to the New Yorker, Pence signed the legislation into law surrounded by "three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state." (An intense, national backlash forced the Legislature and Pence to come up with a less discriminatory law.)

Near the end of her article, Mayer writes that "two sources" recalled Trump "needling" Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality.

"During a meeting with a legal scholar," wrote Mayer, "Trump belittled Pence's determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. ...

"When the conversation turned to gay rights," Mayer wrote, "Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, 'Don't ask that guy - he wants to hang them all!'"

DOJ enters trans case
In the Iowa case, Sessions has directed the Department of Justice to take an unusually active role in prosecuting a hate crime against a transgender person.

According to the New York Times, Christopher Perras, a Justice Department lawyer, will serve as a county prosecutor in the case involving the murder of Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old whose family said was gay, identified as both male and female, and occasionally went by the name Kandicee.

An official at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said that while Sessions' office was "right" to assist in the prosecution, "It is the height of cynicism for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use this - frankly rare - instance of civil rights enforcement under his tenure to deflect from the current department's sustained opposition to its historic mission."

Under Sessions, the DOJ has reversed Obama era policies that increased protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"For Sessions now to seek credit for helping prosecute hate crimes against transgender people," said Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal director of strategy, "is akin to him handing out gasoline and matches and then looking for a pat on the back when he prosecutes someone for committing arson."

Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay Republican group, commended Sessions' action, saying it was the "first time a Republican presidential administration has assisted in pursuing anti-LGBT hate crime charges. ..."

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