International relations are always a hot potato, but not usually like this. A Trump administration spokesperson tweeted on Sept. 2 that Vice President Mike Pence couldn't possibly be "anti-gay" because he was meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is openly gay, and his partner for lunch during a visit to Ireland on Sept 3. Pence's critics were quick to argue that the vice president has a history of promoting anti-LGBTQ policies, and one critic in particular didn't hold back. In fact, Chasten Buttigieg clapped back about Mike Pence and homophobia in a very pointed tweet.
On Sept. 2, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere posted a screenshot of Pence's schedule for Sept. 3, noting that it included lunch with Varadkar — Ireland's first openly gay leader — and his partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett. Buttigieg, a teacher, social media darling, and husband of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, wasn't having it. In response to Deere's tweet, Buttigieg argued that having lunch with a gay person does not mean that someone is automatically supportive of LGBTQ rights.
"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," Buttigieg tweeted. "Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal." Deere did not respond to Elite Daily's request for additional comment on the matter.
Both Buttigieg and his husband have been critical of the Trump administration, and Pence in particular, for its record on LGBTQ rights. Buttigieg's husband is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and accused Pence earlier this year of advancing "homophobic policies" and thereby "hurting other people." Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment regarding the vice president's stance on LGBTQ rights, but did not immediately hear back.
As The Independent and TIME pointed out, Pence has a long history of voting against LGBTQ rights. When he was representing Indiana in the House of Representatives, Pence voted against a bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and later argued that such a bill "wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace.” Pence also opposed repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a military policy that prevented soldiers from openly identifying as LGBTQ.
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a "religious freedom" bill that in part made it possible for business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs. On top of that, Pence has regularly faced accusations that he supports conversion therapy, though a Pence spokesperson previously told The New York Times that such accusations are "patently false."
Deere's original tweet received a number of responses criticizing the vice president and his past support for anti-LGBTQ legislation. In response to the press release, many Twitter users opined that Pence's lunch with Varadkar did not negate years of anti-LGBTQ policies and remarks.
For his part, Pence tweeted on Sept. 3 that "there has been a remarkable bond" between Ireland and the United States "since the beginning of our republic."
"Thanks to the leadership of President @realDonaldTrump and Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar, the relationship between the United States and Ireland has never been stronger," Pence tweeted.
But if Pence's critics made anything clear, it's this — the vice president's lunch with Varadkar isn't going to make up for years of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies. It's kind of a lot to ask of one meal, after all.